Friday // April 5, 2019

The Mark of a Servant Leader

At EMJ, our purpose is to be people serving people. Whether in an office, at a meeting, or on a job site, we perform our work by serving others.

But does that end at 5 o’clock when we go home? Are the people we seek to serve and inspire limited to those we cross paths with during our typical work day? Sarah Kirby, IT Support Manager for EMJ Corporation, doesn’t think so and she has a scar to prove it.

Her story starts almost two years ago when her best friend Kate found out that she was in end stage renal failure due to Polycystic Kidney Disease. This diagnosis meant that she needed a kidney transplant.

With Sarah by her side, Kate took immediate action to be placed on the National Recipient List for a donation, which she was placed on a few months later — this was the good news. The bad news was that the doctors estimated it would be five years before Kate would receive a kidney.

Sarah had promised Kate that when it came time for a new kidney, she would gladly give her own. So Sarah called the transplant center and began the process of donating a kidney to Kate.

“You only need one kidney so you should donate your spare,” said Sarah, which is exactly what she intended to do. Unfortunately, she was not a match. “I’ve never been more devastated in my life,” she said.

There was, however, another option. Even if you are not a match for your intended recipient, you can still donate on his or her behalf. This is possible because of Piedmont Healthcare’s Paired-Kidney Exchanges – an intricate process of mixing and matching recipients and their donors in an ever-widening pool until the right pairings are found. While that means your kidney may go to a stranger, your donation assures that the person you volunteered to help gets a new organ too.

Sarah leapt at this opportunity and was approved, allowing Sarah and Kate to be paired together. They were told it would be about a year before matches were found and they would have months to plan the surgery. That was the first of January. Surprisingly, by the second week of March, Sarah received a call that there was someone in need of her kidney and that they also had a kidney for Kate.

“I got a call and they needed me to say yes to start the chain…and they needed the answer within the hour,” said Sarah. “I was shocked but somehow collected myself enough to say yes. I got to tell Kate she was getting a new kidney. This was by far the best phone call I have or will ever make.”

The process worked like a three-team, multi-player, NBA trade. Sarah’s kidney was sent to a recipient from San Francisco. In turn, that recipient’s living donor sent a kidney to a recipient in South Carolina. Finally, the trade was completed when that recipient’s living donor sent a kidney to Kate.

Kate and Sarah’s surgeries were completed on March 27, a few hours apart. Kate’s new kidney immediately worked and today she is doing better than she has in many years.

Sarah doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. “I am not going to lie, it was scary to think about having a kidney removed,” said Sarah, “But, I really love my best friend, she’s a really good one. So I did it for a very selfish reason – I want her to be around as long as possible.”

Sarah may claim her kidney donation was “selfish,” but there’s nothing selfish about it. EMJ is grateful to have people like Sarah on our team, reminding us that giving of yourself is tough and can leave a scar, but that it’s also the mark of a servant leader.

Sarah Kirby (R) with her best friend Kate (L) after their surgeries.

 

Are you interested in learning more about this procedure? Check out the Piedmont Transplant’s Living Donor Program. Click here to learn more about EMJ’s purpose and values.

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