Logo for: National Kidney Registry

Advocating for Better Protections for Living Organ Donors

Senator John Albers

Since 2020, Georgia Senator John Albers has been dedicated to the cause of living kidney donation. Working with the American Kidney Foundation, he helped pass the Giving the Gift of Life Act in Georgia, which prohibits life insurers from discriminating against living organ donors by denying or canceling coverage and provides tax credits up to $25,000 for living donors. This is his kidney donation and living donor advocacy story.

This all started back in the year 2020. My son, Will, was 24 at the time. No 24-year-old goes to the doctor, unfortunately. He started to get a lot of fatigue and was feeling really weak. He had a lot of things going on in his life and he thought it was stress-related. One day, he called me on his way to my house, which is just a 30-minute drive, and told me he’d had to pull over to take a nap.

In August 2020 he got worse and was vomiting blood. It was the middle of COVID, so being in the hospital was very challenging. With my background as a firefighter and EMT, I was allowed to go into his room in the ICU. No parent should ever see their child with that many tubes coming out of him. The doctor said, John, we don’t know what’s wrong. All his organs are shutting down. We don’t know if he’ll make it through the night. All I could do was hold his hand. They eventually realized his kidneys were completely shut down and started dialysis right away. Although I was grateful he was alive, I couldn’t believe my 24-year-old son was going on dialysis.

Until the day I am taken home by the Lord, I will do everything I can to improve the donation process for other people.

Senator John Albers

We started looking into everything about transplantation. If you are not somehow connected to the transplant world, you just don’t know what’s involved. On July 1, 2021, I got the greatest call of my life. The doctor said, John, you’re not just a match, you’re a darn near perfect match—one of the best I’ve ever seen.

We had our surgeries three weeks later, on July 21, 2021. I was in the hospital for two days and Will came home the day after me. He was already feeling so much better. It was amazing how his life functions were full speed again. I was back to work in a week. I didn’t really have any limitations whatsoever, but of course I followed the doctor’s orders about not lifting anything heavy or doing anything to jeopardize my recovery.

This is my life’s calling now. Until the day I am taken home by the Lord, I will do everything I can to improve the donation process for other people. I want to flip the list. I want so many people waiting in line to be a living donor that anyone who needs a transplant can get one. I believe we can do that, we just have to get people, and all the other wonderful groups that are working toward this goal, to come together.

In my donation experience, there was a lot of bureaucracy, and it was hard to understand what was going on. I noticed that some areas are better than others. From Will almost dying to his transplant took 11 months. We need to reduce that time. Bureaucracy and communication are the two big things—we need to be able to hold people’s hands during what will probably be one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. That includes helping people understand that if they are in kidney failure, they have immediate access to Medicare. We need to be able to roll out the red carpet for them.

With the Giving the Gift of Life Act, you have the assurance that your life insurance can never be canceled, and if you’re applying, you can’t be denied. Good news—living donors live longer than other people anyway!

Are we incentivizing people to donate their organs? Absolutely. We should incent people. We incent people’s behavior all the time—why shouldn’t we incent people to save someone’s life?

Senator John Albers

It also gives living donors a $25,000 tax credit. Are we incentivizing people to donate their organs? Absolutely. We should incent people. We incent people’s behavior all the time—why shouldn’t we incent people to save someone’s life? This policy results in a 62-to-1 cost savings for the government. It is the biggest no-brainer for the government. That will help us to flip that list. We have passed versions of my bill in many states now.

And we’re going even further. I’m working on a bill that gives people between $75,000 and $100,000 for donating an organ and also allows inmates to shave time off their sentences by donating an organ.

We’re also working on the transportation issue to ensure organs are always in the cockpit or up in the cabin, and that they are the last thing on the plane and first thing off. After 9/11, they started putting organs in the cargo hold, which has resulted in thousands of organs being lost. That is unacceptable.

A lot of this has come about because Will wanted to share our story. I was surprised, because Will is a private person, unlike me. He told me, “If one person was sick like me and didn’t wait to go to the doctor, it would be worth it. If one person hears our story and becomes a donor, it would be worth it.”

So we told our story in a post on LinkedIn. Millions and millions of people liked our post and we got hundreds of thousands of comments and direct messages. It was the most overwhelming outpouring of love and support. Locally, we got the same support from our neighbors, our friends, our church, my fellow senators—people wanted to bring us food or anything else we needed. If that doesn’t restore people’s faith in the goodness of humanity, nothing will.

God could have had this happen to anyone. He chose us. I don’t believe in coincidence. All this is for a great purpose. This is my life’s calling now.

About the Author

Senator Albers has long been an active member of his community. His affiliations include numerous boards of directors for business, civic and charitable organizations. He is a fourth-generation firefighter that served for over 30 years as a volunteer and his sons continue the family legacy as 5th generation first responders.

Senator Albers is an organ donor and gave a kidney to his son in 2021. After the donation, Senator Albers passed the Giving the Gift of Life Act and became a national advocate for organ donation.

Professionally, John is a business owner and executive with nearly three decades of management and consulting experience. John holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and completed post graduate programs at Harvard and the University of Georgia.

Filter By Tags: All After Donation Donation & Age Donation & Diet Donation & Fitness Donation Process Donation Risks Donor Shield Kidney Matching Qualifying for Donation Recovery Support for Donors Voucher Program