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My Kidney Donation Story: Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter

I decided last year that I was going to anonymously donate a kidney. I watched a program about organ donation and learned how awful it was to go through dialysis. I had no idea. The idea of enduring this procedure 3 times a week, for the rest of their lives—it seemed like a terribly unfair way to go through life.

Once I learned that a kidney transplant could effectively end their condition, I thought, “People need to step up and become donors to make this change.” Talk is cheap if you don’t back it up, so I felt compelled to step up myself.

When I told my friends and family of my decision, inevitably someone would ask, WHY? My answer was always, WHY NOT? Honestly, tell me why not. Risk? There is always risk when you are under anesthesia, but any of us would go under for a procedure we needed or wanted.

The only two other “why not” answers were inconvenience and discomfort. I could handle both of those to save or change someone’s life. I also heard, “I can see doing it for a family member, but for a total stranger?” My response: Well, I would do it for you, and I would do it for a friend of yours that I may not know … so why not for a total stranger? Wouldn’t most of us (hopefully) jump into a lake to save someone from drowning? So why not donate a kidney to save someone’s life?

A decade ago, I signed up with the NKR, and assumed that since they knew my blood type and location, they would eventually reach out if I was needed. What little I knew. I received regular emails but I never read them deeply enough to learn what I had to do to get cleared as a potential donor.

When I told my friends and family of my decision to donate a kidney, inevitably someone would ask, WHY? My answer was always, WHY NOT?

Michael Carpenter

Then I saw one with a subject line like, “You haven’t taken the next steps.” Once I read about the process, I realized there a very complex testing process that was required. I called and spoke to someone about the timeline and what was involved, and decided to move forward. Testing took more than 6 months with everything that needed to be done.

I had my donation surgery in January of 2023. Recovery was smooth and before I hit the 6-week mark, I felt 100%, like I did before the surgery.

I didn’t even know about the Voucher Program until I had already gotten the green light to donate. I was just donating to be altruistic, not to help someone specific, but then I found out I had the chance to save two lives instead of one—the person who got my kidney, plus a person I chose to give my voucher to.

My kidney went to a 49-year-old wife and mother who now has a new lease on life. I gave my voucher to a 21-year-old family friend who is down to 2% kidney function and would not survive the 7–10 year wait on the transplant list. This voucher will move her to the top of the priority list.

If you have a friend or family member in need of a kidney and you are not a match, BE A NON-DIRECTED DONOR and give them the voucher! You will not only save their life, but also the person who receives your kidney. If you don’t know anyone in need of a kidney, consider donating and being a hero. It’s a good feeling to carry with you.

About the Author

Michael Carpenter is a wine retailer who has built a 25-year career in the wine trade. He founded two wine-related companies: The Redd Collection, a wine retailer that specializes in rare and collectible wines from all regions of the world, and Wine Cellar Services, a custom wine cellar design and construction firm with projects nationwide. His client list of collectors was built only by referrals and includes well-known names in the business world, Wall Street and Hollywood. His family has been in the Napa Valley for nearly 60 years. He is an alumnus of UCLA and was a member of the back-to-back NCAA Championship Track & Field teams in 1987 and 1988, trained for U.S. Olympic Trials in 1992, and came back to throw Javelin at age 40 and took second at U.S. Nationals Masters division. He resides in Sonoma County with his wife, two teenage children, and dogs Woodie and June.

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