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Having been a type 1 diabetic from his mid teens, Stephen was well versed in the possibilities of complications that come from this disease. Unfortunately, after many years of navigating this disease with few issues, in 2020 it became obvious something was extremely wrong.

On and off throughout the beginning of the year, his blood sugar levels became erratic and unpredictable. Because of this Stephen would enter into seizures or become extremely irritated and despondent.

For a while this was explained away as just him not being as careful as he had used to be with his blood sugar level, however it came to a head in the middle of that year.

Working for a pizza delivery place, Stephen went out on one of his first deliveries to an address just a few miles away, but when an hour later he had not returned, and the customer called in angrily awaiting their delivery I was sent to go try and find him.

I drove out to the address that he was meant to arrive at, apologized to the customer for the delay and explained he must just be confused. After speaking with them I drove to the last place his phone had pinged into our delivery systems GPS, no sign of him there either. Calling him did not help as he either would not answer, or he would not be making any sense, unsure of where he was or where he was going. Asking him to pull over as he was obviously in a bad state led to him getting angry and spiteful. Being as this was turning into several hours of having little to no contact, and him being obviously unfit to drive the police were brought into the fold to assist in finding him, hopefully intact as he had stopped responding altogether.

Thankfully he was found, unconscious behind the wheel parked outside of one of his friends houses that in a confused state he must have muscle-memory driven to. It was then and there that was the line, something had to change. Testing following that incident showed that his kidneys had all but shut down completely and were continuing to do so, which is what made his sugar levels so erratic as he was not processing anything very well. He was put on at home dialysis rather quickly to help sustain until a donor could be found. Well we realized, rather quickly, what many families do about that donor list and that is that the list is long, extremely long with many waiting years or more for the possibility of receiving a deceased donor.

Early in 2021 when it did not seem the list was moving fast enough to have him receive a kidney we knew we had to look in a new direction and that was through a live donor. Almost immediately I started to look into the process as I knew that waiting in earnest for the list to catch up to us was not realistic. I was the first and ultimately only of our siblings to begin the testing process to see if me and Stephen were a match enough to continue through to a possible donation. Thankfully every test came back as a positive sign that the donation from me to him would be nothing but a success. However it did show that I needed to make several changes in my life to make this as easy a transfer as possible including changing my diet for healthier options at every turn, losing a little bit of weight and overall making sure that I was healthy as possible since this would be a draining experience on me. I did realize early on that this might present a hardship not only physically as it was a demanding surgery, but also with securing my job and monetary

means for recovery.

As the testing went on it became more and more apparent that this was going to happen. Although, even though I was willing and a match, the hospital handling this whole procedure took every precaution to make sure I was making the best decision not only for my brother but for myself. Anytime I might have a test that was slightly irregular it would lead to delays, more testing and a hopeful reason as to why my test might have been inconsistent. Pressing on, one major concern of mine with this surgery was that I would be out of work for about a month for recovery, and like many today I live paycheck to paycheck and was worried about affording even the basics like rent, my utilities, my car payment and my food.

Fortunately, that concern was negated by groups such as the National Kidney Foundation, and The Meredith Haga Foundation. These two groups have made it possible for me to even consider being out of work for that amount of time knowing my bills and expenses would be covered and I would not have to stress about financial means as well. These two groups took away that added pressure so I could focus fully on completing this surgery, helping to save my brother’s life.

On December 6th of 2022, after nearly a year of testing, and over a year of Stephen being on dialysis, we had our joint operation to give him my healthy kidney. My surgery being around four hours long was done mostly laparoscopically making it as easy on me physically as possible, Stephen’s surgery lasted a little bit longer but he made it out safely. After the surgery, the head of the Meredith Haga Foundation came to the UVA transplant hospital to personally shake hands and meet with my brother and I, while handing off the assistance they were providing me face to face.

These organizations honestly made this donation possible for me as I did not see a way to financially survive this recovery period without them. Since the surgery, I have been recovering at home safely with a job to go back to as my employer has been extremely understanding of this whole process as well. Beyond the surgery and the financial support, having a job that works around needing the random days off, or late entrance to the office for additional testing has been life changing. My brother has been recovering safely at my parents house and just hearing how excited he has been just to be off dialysis has been more than heart-warming, it has been affirming that this was the right decision.

My choice to get this process started quite literally saved my brother’s life. Save a life, donate to help someone in need. Medical science the way it is today makes this overall an overall safer, easier, and quicker experience. A few weeks of recovery, for a lifetime saved, is more than worth the down time. The person whose life is saved will never forget your gift, and the bond between you will never falter. Create a friend, support a loved one, donate to save a life.