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Two acquaintances became friends through kidney donation

IU Health University Hospital

Two acquaintances became friends through kidney donation

When Penny Givan needed a kidney donor, she didn’t have to look too far. A woman in her church stepped up and was a match.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

For many people, finding a compatible kidney donor can take months – even years. Penny Givan learned early that spreading the word about kidney donation was vital to finding a match.

So when she knew she needed a second transplant, she confided in those gathered for her Sunday evening small group. Members of her home congregation – Harvest Church in Greenfield, Ind. were no strangers to living kidney donation. One small group leader had donated to a spouse.

Givan received her first transplant at IU Health on May 20, 2005. IU Health’s Dr. William Goggins was her surgeon when she received the life saving organ from the oldest of her five brothers. Givan said her kidneys began to fail in late 2003, a result of Factor 8 blood clotting disorder. Also known as “Hemophilia A” the disease causes the body not to make enough Factor 8, a substance needed for blood clotting. After two surgeries, she began dialysis in January of 2004.

After that first transplant, Givan became an advocate for transplant – speaking publicly and participating in eight “Transplant Games.” She received medals in badminton, table tennis and cycling. The games are held every two years. Givan began representing “Team Indiana” in 2006.

“I thought since I wasn’t spending 12 hours in dialysis I could help bring attention to kidney disease and the need for organ donation. I couldn’t have been at the games without my first kidney donor,” said Givan, who has been married to her husband, David, for 19 years.

“My health was ok until the fall of 2019. I started having swelling and fatigue, and my creatinine levels were creeping up,” said Givan, 53. In the care of Dr. Dennis Mishler, an IU Health nephrologist, Givan knew she was looking at another transplant. “I had an honest conversation with my transplant coordinator, Christine Gibson, and started making a plan,” said Givan. When she asked her life group for prayers, she never dreamed one of them would step up as a potential donor.

April is “Donate Life Month,” a time to promote registration for organ, eye, and tissue donation – a decision that could save lives. More than 100,000 people across the country are currently on a waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. The majority of those on the list are in need of kidney transplant, followed by liver, pancreas, heart, and lung. Indiana residents can register to become organ donors through www.RegisterMe.org. IU Health also performs transplantation of living kidney and liver donation.

Last year, IU Health ranked among the top 20 transplant centers in the United States. In 2021, more liver transplants were performed since 2005 and more kidney transplants were performed since 2007. IU Health’s kidney transplant program is the largest and most experienced transplant program in Indiana, performing more than 250 kidney and kidney/pancreas transplants annually.

Dr. Goggins again performed one of those transplants on Oct. 8, 2021.

It was at the end of a Zoom meeting for their small group when Margaret “Annie” Travis announced that she would like to be Givan’s donor. “I wish someone would’ve taken a screenshot of my face because I’m sure I was just dumbfounded. I didn’t even know what to say," said Givan. She didn’t know Travis that well, but she knew immediately that she was serious about her decision.

People who wish to donate a kidney go through a screening process that includes working with a team of caregivers – surgeons, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, a living donor transplant coordinator, psychiatrists or psychologists, social workers, dieticians, pharmacists and financial coordinators.

After an initial screening, Travis underwent an evaluation process to determine that she was a match. Part of that evaluation included testing for compatible blood types, a chest x-ray, urine test, EKG, CT scan, cancer screening and pulmonary function screening.

“During the time leading up to the transplant, I lost 80 pounds in order to donate,” said Travis, 57. “To be honest, I’m healthier since I donated my kidney than I was before. I healed up quickly and was only in the hospital three days.”

Joined by a kidney, the two women have gone from acquaintances to friends. They often sit together in their life group.

“People ask why I did it and I usually tell them because I was at a point in my life where I could,” said Travis. Married to husband, Micah, for 35 years, she is the mother to three grown children. “I’m an empty nester and a homemaker and I felt like this was something God wanted me to do.”

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