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My Kidney Donation Story: Tara McNeil

Tara McNeil

This all started because a friend put out a call on Facebook looking for a kidney. I know him because we both attended the same amputee support group. We’re both bilateral below knee amputees.

I knew that you could donate organs but I never really looked into it. His post made it more real, so I thought I’d look into it. I think most people don’t donate because they are afraid of surgery and that does not describe me.

It took about six months for the whole process. They were very careful with me to be sure I would be a good candidate. I ended up being a match for another person and I donated my kidney on behalf of my friend through the NKR’s Voucher Program. I didn’t tell him that I had started the process because I wanted to be sure that I could donate before I told him. He and his family were so grateful.

I had my donation surgery on January 17, 2024. My recipient had his transplant and has been home for a few weeks now and feels amazing.

I feel fantastic, too. Recovery was pretty easy. I felt a little bit sore that first day, but by the time I went home I was just taking Tylenol. The hardest part for me was that you can’t be submerged in water for six weeks—it has to do with the internal dissolvable stitches. I take a bubble bath almost every night, so in all honesty not being able to do that was the hardest thing for me. And watching the lifting restrictions because I felt so fine. In terms of day-to-day functioning, I’m already back to 100%.

I didn’t tell too many people I was donating because I wasn’t trying to get any kind of accolades. My donor mentor helped me turn that around. People, especially people with some kind of disability, might not think they can donate a kidney. If it opens up the door for one more person to look into this, I am willing to share my story.

It really was just a neat experience the whole way along. I felt like a celebrity in the hospital—everyone was so kind. And it was extremely low-pressure. I was told all along the way that I could change my mind, right up until I was going under anesthesia.

Another great thing was that everything was taken care of financially through the NKR’s Donor Shield program, which reimburses donors for lost work and other expenses. That makes it doable for people who have full-time jobs and families and don’t have the extra time and money to become a donor.

Also, I live in Connecticut and the surgery was in Boston. My parents were able to go with me, and Donor Shield paid for their hotel and meals while I was in the hospital.

To anyone interested in becoming a donor, I would say, go for it. Ask a lot of questions and understand all the things that are available to make it doable for your family financially.

About the Author

Tara McNeil lives in West Hartford, CT with her two sons. When she isn’t working as a pediatric occupational therapist Tara enjoys adaptive sports and completed her first triathlon last September. She is a bilateral below knee amputee.

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