A Nurse With A Transplant

August 17, 2017

Nurse Kelly Coffey has been at IU Health for 26 years. For the past 16 years she has worked in the transplant unit of IU Health University Hospital serving as the team lead clinical transplant coordinator. She is also a transplant recipient. Last fall she celebrated the 20th anniversary of receiving a kidney from her older sister, Linda Castleman.

Following are five questions we asked Coffey:

What do you like best about your job?

I love being able to help others and give recipients a second chance at life. Because I was given the life from my sister, I feel like I owe it to other living kidney donors to give back by preparing them and educating them to make an informed choice.

What do organ donors fear most?

I’ve never been a donor but thinking from experience maybe the scariest thing is the actual surgical procedure. Most donors say after it’s all done, they’d do it all again. The whole experience changes them.

What do organ recipients fear most?

That’s a hard question because there are different phases that you have scary moments – The first is when you find out you have kidney disease or your kidneys are failing. Then there’s the unknown. You don’t know what’s next. Will you be on dialysis? Will you be able to get a transplant? Will you be able to find a living donor? What is your best option? The next scariest thing is being worried about your donor. You know you are potentially putting someone else at risk. Then there is the fear of medications. Many transplant recipients are concerned about the increased risks of certain types of cancer. But in the end, our rules as nurses are to educate and guide people through the process so they have a better understanding. I can’t alleviate the fears but I can help them understand we have the best transplant program in the state.

What advice do you give to someone considering living organ donation?

I ask them why they are considering this and make sure they are thinking clearly and are emotionally stable. I want to make sure they do it for the right reasons. Then I would tell them it’s a fairly safe procedure but all surgeries come with risks. I also make sure they know that their risk of renal failure is not increased if they do donate.

What is something that few people know about you?

You can’t tell it by my office, but at home I’m OCD. Everything has to have its place. I have to weed almost every day and I’m always wiping down the countertops and sweeping the floors. I think I’ve gotten a little better over the years. I realize life is a gift and each day is not guaranteed so you better live each day to the fullest and love others.

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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