My Kidney Donation Story: Jenny Godnick
My story began in 2012 when my brother-in-law became ill and needed a kidney transplant. Although I knew nothing about living donation, I knew I was healthy and decided to educate myself about living donation. After doing some research, I learned that people can live normal lives with only one kidney, so I decided: I could do this! I could be the one to help Steven!
I offered to get tested to see if I was a viable candidate. And I was! However, during the testing process we discovered that Steven and I did not have the same blood type. So we entered the National Kidney Registry (NKR) as a pair and started the waiting process to be matched with another compatible pair in the registry.
Finally, the call came that they had found a match for Steven and he had his transplant on April 28, 2014. About a week later, I donated my kidney at NY Presbyterian to a woman named Barbara. We were part of a 24-person chain through the NKR. Barbara and I met and have become good friends. She is forever grateful for “The Jenny” who gave her the gift of life!
Since my donation in 2014, I have become an advocate for increasing awareness about organ donation—especially living donation. I volunteer for my OPO (Organ Procurement Organization), NJ Sharing Network, talking to high school students about organ donation before they get their driver’s licenses. I am also a member of Team Liberty and have participated in the Transplant Games of America since 2016.
I am on a mission to chip away at the approximately 96,000 people in our country waiting for kidney transplants. That is why I tell my story. If even one person’s interest is piqued by hearing my story, then that is a win in my mind. You never know who will realize (like I did) that they can give the gift of life and still live a normal, healthy life themselves. I personally resumed my active lifestyle of running and working out within a month or so after my donation. I even completed a triathlon nine weeks post-surgery!
In my most recent adventure to raise awareness about living donation, I will be joining 17 other kidney donors in Guatemala to summit three volcanoes in four days, the highest of which is over 13,000 feet. We are all members of a wonderful nonprofit organization called Kidney Donor Athletes (KDA; kidneydonorathletes.org) whose mission is to normalize living donation and show people that kidney donors are living active, healthy lives with only one kidney.
Finally, although people have referred to living donors as heroes, I can honestly say that most of us don’t view it that way. My life has become so much richer since I have connected with the organ donation and transplantation community. I can only hope that more people learn about organ donation, even if only to consent to have their organs and tissue donated after death. The gift of life is just that: a true gift! I am proud to help others learn about organ donation.
About the Author
A native of NJ, Jenny currently resides in Hightstown, NJ with her wife Deb and their dog Millie. Jenny enjoyed a 32-year career in education, retiring as a middle school counselor in 2020. She also had a dual career in the Army Reserves and was mobilized to active duty for 18 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jenny retired as a Major after 20 years of service. Currently, Jenny stays active volunteering with several organizations, including the NJ Sharing Network, where she speaks to high school students about organ donation. She is an avid athlete and hikes, bikes, swims and runs. She is proud to be a kidney donor and has made it a personal mission to increase awareness about living donation so that more people can receive the Gift of Life.