The gift of life through paired donation

Apr 21, 2021 | Olivia White | @oliviawhite

Don St. Dennis, a war veteran and retired businessman, had been suffering from kidney failure since 2016 and was searching for a donor. Many had come forward but were not a match until an old colleague and Mayo Clinic employee from Phoenix read about St. Dennis’s story. Lynn Closway had previously worked with Don, and at the time was supporting Mayo Clinic in Arizona’s Transplant Center as their dedicated public relations specialist. She had written many stories about living donors and was inspired to become one herself. She knew she wanted to give him the gift of life by being his living donor. St. Dennis was receiving care at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Lynn was able to do all her donor testing at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. When they discovered that they were not a mutual match, they pursued the kidney paired donation program.

At Mayo Clinic, the paired donation programs in Rochester, Arizona and Florida maintain shared lists to identify donors who might be compatible with other recipients. Even if the compatible donor is found at another Mayo location, the paired donation can still occur. Paired donation chains occur regularly at Mayo Clinic, including one chain of 8 individuals across the three campuses. This ability to share information across the three campuses made it possible for Lynn and St. Dennis to participate in the kidney paired exchange program.

St. Dennis and Lynn underwent surgery in early July of 2020, and St. Dennis was already up and celebrating the 4th of July while recuperating from his transplant surgery. Transplants are so powerful and transforming both for the donor and recipient. Lynn said “psychologically, donating has been a gift to me. While some people questioned my willingness to undergo a surgery I didn’t need, I convinced them I had a ‘spare’ and my healthy kidney would go to someone very deserving…”.

Lynn Closway and all organ donors, both living and deceased, are heroes. During Donate Life Month we want to highlight the gift of life that these donors have given and remind them or their loved ones how appreciated they are. These gifts are life changing and give those who struggle with chronic diseases/illnesses a second chance.




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