Organ Transplant: Donating a Kidney
Guest: Mary Hart – Administrative Specialist, MUSC Children’s Hospital
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: I’m Dr. Linda Austin. I’m interviewing Mary Hart, who is a very special person here at MUSC. Mary, I understand you not only work at MUSC, but you’ve been a kidney donor as well. Is that correct?
Mary Hart: That’s correct.
Dr. Linda Austin: Where do you work at MUSC?
Mary Hart: I work for Unit 7B in the Children’s Hospital. I’m their administrative specialist.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, tell us the story of how you happened to become a kidney donor.
Mary Hart: I had seen a program on the Discovery Health Channel. It was about two brothers. One donated 65 percent of his liver to his brother. And by the time the program was over, I was in tears. It was a beautiful story. I thought, you know, why not? I can do something like this.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, how long ago did you see that program?
Mary Hart: Next month, it will be five years ago.
Dr. Linda Austin: Wow. So, what happened then?
Mary Hart: I started to do some research online. I contacted Dr. Delmonico at Boston General.
Dr. Linda Austin: Now, at that time, were you living here in Charleston?
Mary Hart: I was living in New Hampshire.
Dr. Linda Austin: I see.
Mary Hart: I was living in New Hampshire, and I did a lot of research online, with my regular doctor, and Dr. Delmonico. Nine months later, I was in the operating room donating a kidney.
Dr. Linda Austin: How old were you at that time?
Mary Hart: Thirty-eight.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, tell us about the process, then. You registered to donate a kidney. What kind of evaluation did you go through at that time?
Mary Hart: I went through physical and psychological evaluations. They wanted to make sure that I wasn’t donating for money or reasons of guilt, or something like that. It was pretty rigorous; lots of physical testing, but nothing overwhelming.
Dr. Linda Austin: How many hours did that process take, would you guess; if you can remember?
Mary Hart: I would say, without any drive time; because it was quite a drive to the hospital from where I lived, it only took about ten hours, total.
Dr. Linda Austin: But that’s still a pretty thorough evaluation.
Mary Hart: Yes.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, you were, then, on the list, for how long?
Mary Hart: I don’t think it took very long from when they typed my blood to matching it with someone on the list that was nearby.
Dr. Linda Austin: Where were you when you got the call that you were needed?
Mary Hart: I was at home, actually. I got home at 3:30, from my job. There was a message on the answering machine, and I called back. They told me that they’d found a match and asked me I’d like to go forward, and I said, yes.
Dr. Linda Austin: No second thoughts at that point?
Mary Hart: No.
Dr. Linda Austin: Did you find out anything about the recipient before you donated?
Mary Hart: No. As a matter of fact, we were on different floors during the operations. The operating rooms were next to each other, but the recovery rooms were on separate floors. They don’t want any kind of interaction between the donor and the recipient. So, I knew nothing about the recipient prior to the surgery.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, how about after the surgery?
Mary Hart: After the surgery, the only thing I knew was that the recipient was a man who, at the time of our surgeries, had an 18-month-old baby girl. And that’s all I know.
Dr. Linda Austin: But he’s out there somewhere, with your kidney?
Mary Hart: Yes. Last I checked in with the hospital, he was doing very well.
Dr. Linda Austin: Now, walk us through what the procedure was in the hospital.
Mary Hart: I don’t remember a lot of it. You get in and put on the lovely hospital gown that they give you. You get on a stretcher and they give you an IV, and you wake up in the recovery room afterwards.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, then, how long was the recovery period afterwards?
Mary Hart: I was in the hospital for two days. And I was supposed to be off work for two to six weeks. I was out for two and a half, because I couldn’t take the boredom. But the recovery, really, wasn’t terrible. I mean, yes, there was pain. Yes, there was a lot of discomfort. But I don’t regret it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Dr. Linda Austin: Has it changed your life, or your thinking, or your philosophy in any way since then, or was it just kind of a bump in the road, and you carried on?
Mary Hart: It has definitely affected my life. I have never felt better about myself. I’ve never felt better physically, mentally, or emotionally about who I am, and what I’ve done.
Dr. Linda Austin: Say some more about that.
Mary Hart: Growing up, I always had kind of a poor self-image. And I’ve always wanted to help people, but was never sure how to. And this just seemed like such an easy choice, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s always been, you know, when you’re having a bad day, you try to focus on something positive. And this always makes a bad day seem better. A lot of people whom I’ve told that I donated a kidney just can’t see doing that, and for me, it was easy. A lot of people just don’t understand how I could.
Dr. Linda Austin: That is such an interesting observation about your sense of personal value.
Mary Hart: Hmm.
Dr. Linda Austin: We come into this world to make a difference. And, no matter what else happens in your life, you know that you have made an enormous difference; not only to that man, but to his 18-month-old daughter, and to all the lives that both of those individuals touch. He may have had other children. That’s an enormous thing. I mean, we live lives, as human beings, with wonderful acts of kindness that we perform, and sometimes some moments that many of us regret. But that is something you have that you can always hold onto.
Mary Hart: Absolutely.
Dr. Linda Austin: Very beautiful. I would guess that one of the things that concerns folks the most is the thought: gee, what if my kidney, now, ever failed me? What would happen then? Do you ever worry about that?
Mary Hart: Not very often. I know that I go to the top of the list. I also know that I have family members that would not even hesitate to donate to me if I needed that. But I don’t see myself needing it. I’m healthy. You know, I’ve taken whatever steps I can to avoid any kind of kidney problems, so I’m not worried about it.
Dr. Linda Austin: Well, we are so lucky to have you, and I’m so appreciative of your willingness to share your story. It’s a terrific story.
Mary Hart: Thank you.
Dr. Linda Austin: Thank you.
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