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My Kidney Donation Story: Mimi Mahon

Mimi Mahon

My mom suffered an acute kidney injury in the spring of 2015 that was a result of sepsis. While we are still unsure of exactly what caused her to be sick in the first place, the events that transpired are quite a story.

It all began while we were on my annual softball spring trip in Florida. At the time, I was the head softball coach at Oberlin College and my parents enjoyed coming along to watch the team. My sister, Ali, happened to be on the trip as well and we both noticed strange behavior in my mom. She had a severe cough and was just sluggish overall compared to her normal energetic self.

After my parents returned back home to Ohio, my mom still was not feeling well. At the time, she did not have a regular primary care physician and ended up going to the local urgent care and minute clinics and getting no real answers.

Later that spring, my dad had come up to Oberlin College to visit me and see our team play when my mom took a turn for the worse. When he left to drive home, I called my mom and she wasn’t answering. That was very unusual, so my brothers went to check on her. She was on the floor of the bathroom, incoherent. She was in septic shock. She was rushed to the hospital and it was at that time we found out her kidneys were failing.

While she was in the hospital, it was also apparent that something was not right with her stomach as she was carrying what appeared to be a great deal of weight in her stomach that was not typical for her. We then found out that she had a perforated bowel and had to have immediate surgery.

My sister was living in Savannah, Georgia, at the time but flew in to be with my mom. She was around seven months pregnant at the time, so it was a risky trip, but Ali was adamant about coming home. Once my mom was recovering from all she had been through, my mom wanted to meet Ali’s new son, Armando, so we flew to see them. After a few great days together, we decided to meet family in the area at a restaurant in nearby Hilton Head. I noticed my mom was acting a little off and then suddenly she just dropped to the floor. She’d had a cardiac arrest.

My sister is a nurse and she began CPR right away. The paramedics came and had to shock her repeatedly. She was taken to the hospital again and was in a medically induced coma for several days. I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. While I was in Hilton Head and my mom was fighting for her life, I received a text message from Erica Hanrahan, the head softball coach at DePauw University, which is not far from my hometown where my parents live. She offered me a coaching position that I could not pass up as I could then be closer to my mom and help her through the recovery process.

Over the next year, my mom started going through the process of seeing if people could get tested as donors because her kidneys were only functioning at 10%. I was tested right away. I was approved to donate but was deemed not a good match for her due to antibodies, so they put me on hold because they wanted to find a direct match. This was in the early days of paired exchange, so it was not nearly as common as it is today. At that time, they were really looking for someone who could donate to her directly.

Fortunately, we had several friends and family members offer to donate, but one by one they were told they could not donate due to health reasons. By then, it was the summer of 2016, and my mom’s doctors were starting to talk more and more about dialysis the longer she went without a kidney transplant. This became very frustrating to me. I thought, Why won’t they let me do it? I’m ready, I’m healthy, let’s go! So, I called my transplant coordinator and said just that. I asked them to please consider me, and they did! It was just six months between my call and my surgery, which was on January 4, 2017.

At that time, I truly did not think of donating my kidney as a big deal. I was not worried about surgery, as I tore my ACL in high school and went through that surgery just fine. Many considered ACL repair surgery a big deal, with some even calling that type of knee surgery “career-ending.” That was not the case at all for me. I actually delayed the surgery, playing an entire season with it torn, and then went on to play four years of college softball after surgery.

Going through that experience helped me realize how strong and resilient the human body is! I viewed this surgery in the same light. I also love a good challenge. I remember being excited about the challenge of walking to see my mom, who was recovering on another floor of the hospital, and the nurses challenging me to sit in a chair for a certain amount of time. I watched the clock to make sure I achieved the goal they set for me. My dad has always called me a carrot chaser, meaning that when you put something out in front of me, I will work to reach it!

I cannot say every day was easy that soon after surgery, but to return to such physically demanding activity just shows again how resilient the human body is and that you can absolutely donate a kidney and get back to everything you did before.

Mimi Mahon

I went back to coaching college softball just two and a half weeks after surgery. I cannot say every day was easy that soon after surgery, but to return to such physically demanding activity just shows again how resilient the human body is and that you can absolutely donate a kidney and get back to everything you did before. With that said, I do think it is important to give your body the time it needs to heal and set goals for yourself when it comes to your training and fitness. It has been seven years since I donated and I feel as healthy and physically fit as ever!

To anyone considering becoming a donor, I would say, Why not?! There are so many illnesses that are incurable and kidney disease is one that we can do something about. You have the opportunity to save someone else’s life and in the process, you will actually gain so much more. By going through all of this, I gained a newfound perspective and appreciation for life that has led to being the best version of myself.

About the Author

Mimi Mahon, a frequent competitor and winner of Donor Games events, lives in West Chester, Ohio, with her wife Ashley, and two sons, Niko and Luka.  She is the owner and head coach at Mahon Strength & Fitness, which opened its doors in January 2021 in her hometown of Hamilton, Ohio. Mimi donated a kidney through the National Kidney Registry’s paired donation program in January 2017 on behalf of her mom. Mimi spends most of her time training and coaching at her gym as well as spending time with her family.

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