In the newspaper version of this article about federal workers who have donated organs, a photo caption transposed the names of two women pictured. The corrected caption appears in the Web version: Debi Brittingham is on the left and donor Susan Wolski is on the right. Also, the article referred to Karen Shorter in one instance by the name of the neighbor who received the kidney she donated. It was Shorter, not Janet Burns, who had to stay in the hospital for about a week after her procedure because it could not be done laparoscopically.
Snapshots of federal organ donors
Steve Hadley wasn't the first to offer a kidney to Baird Brown, his brother-in-law, but he was the chosen one. Seven friends and colleagues were screened and ruled out. "After almost two years of this emotional roller coaster, it seemed to me my brother-in-law had suffered enough, and I volunteered to be tested," said Hadley, 55, who at the time was a U.S. Agency for International Development bureau director in Washington.
"Lo and behold, I was a match," he said.
About six months passed between Hadley's initial screening and the May 2006 surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. After the transplant, he took about four weeks leave. His supervisors and colleagues were very supportive.
He needed that time off. Recovery experiences vary, and Hadley's wasn't good.
"It was awful, actually," he said. "But it's over soon enough, and I would absolutely recommend that others volunteer. It's remarkable to me that you can save someone else's life by giving up something you don't need."
Judy Payne is a special kind of giver. The transplant world calls them "altruistic donors." Donating a kidney to help a relative or friend is more than decent enough, but she applied to Johns Hopkins Hospital to be an organ donor because she's altruistic. A news story last February about D.C. Council member Marion Barry's kidney transplant sparked her interest in becoming an organ donor. She's an athletic person -- who "loves to hike, sea kayak, cross-country ski and do dog agility with my exuberant Dalmatian," she said, not to mention running a dozen marathons.
Payne had some concerns about the effect of kidney donation surgery ("nephrectomy" in doctor speak) on her active lifestyle. But she found that she has "no restrictions on sports, except to think twice about sports where you might damage a kidney, such as auto racing."
As an added benefit, her recovery time allowed her "some time to think about my work and ways to make it more productive," said Payne, who works for USAID. "That was a surprise to me -- having a chance to step back to think a bit about my role at work was wonderful."
Organ donation is a major sacrifice that some people wouldn't make even for a brother or sister. But for Sara Rasmussen-Tall, "there was never any real question. My brother Geof needed a kidney, so of course I offered," she said in an e-mail from Kinshasa, Congo, where she works for USAID. "It was an automatic decision of the heart; not much time or effort had to go into thinking about it. How's the song go? 'He's not heavy. He's my brother . . .'
"When a colleague told me about the Organ Donor Leave Act, I was even prouder to be an American."
Rasmussen-Tall said it took her about seven weeks to fully recover from the 2008 surgery. "I recently had a physical exam, and the urine tests show that I have 100 percent kidney function, with just one kidney," she said. "I can not notice any difference now, except for light scars."
She said she would "absolutely urge others to donate. . . . You're directly saving someone's life and enhancing your own."