Joe's Story

Living kidney donor Joe Johnson and Nicole Turgeon, MD, his Emory Transplant Center surgeon, before Joe's surgery.

Living kidney donor Joe Johnson and Nicole Turgeon, MD, his Emory Transplant Center surgeon, before Joe's surgery.

Name: Joe Johnson
City/Town: Cumming, Georgia
Current Age: 60
Occupation: Retired
Date of Donation: July 29, 2016
Hospital and Location: Emory University Hospital, Atlanta Georgia


Did you know your recipient?
No, I am an altruistic non-directed donor.

What made you decide to donate?
In late 2015, while doing some research online, I came across article regarding kidney disease. I was stunned by the sheer numbers of those on the kidney waiting list and the numbers who die while waiting for a transplant. I felt a compassion for those on the waiting list and decided to do something about it. For me, it was a spiritual journey and I felt God was taking me out of my comfort zone.

Was it a tough decision? 
No, it was not a tough decision. I wanted to make a difference in someone's life, to either save their life or give them a quality of life once again.

What were your biggest concerns about donating? 
My biggest concern was the question, "What will my family and friends think of a perfectly healthy 59-year-old donating a kidney to a complete stranger?" 

How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to donate? 
Most were supportive, although some were surprised and were not familiar with altruistic donation. Once I told them why I was doing it, they were on board with my decision. Initially, I only told my family and a few very close friends. 

How did your surgery go? 
Surgery went perfect. I was well prepared before the surgery regarding expectations. My recovery time was around six weeks. 

What was your recovery like while you were in the hospital? 
I had surgery on Friday morning and was released Sunday afternoon. Once I was unhooked from IV's, catheter, etc., I was able to walk the transplant floor within 24 hours after surgery. I was on minimal pain medication as well. 

What was your recovery like at home? 
It was very good. Just had to follow instructions to not lift too much and keep the surgical areas clean. It was hard not being able to drive for two weeks following surgery.

What was the most difficult part of recovery? 
The worst part of my recovery was sneezing. The first time I sneezed, I thought I had opened the incision. It definitely was painful to sneeze.

When did you return to work? 
I was retired, so didn't have to worry about that. 

How long was the process from making the first contact about donating until your surgery?
About seven months

Is there anything about being a kidney donor that's surprised you?
The thing that surprised me most is the fact that non-directed, altruistic donation is rare, which is sad to me.  

Would you do it again? 

Have you met your recipient? 
Yes, I met my recipient four months after the transplant. It was a very emotional and joyful experience. Meeting my recipient and hearing his thanks made all of the testing and surgery I endured, worth it all.

Read more about Joe's story.