It’s a Match: Woman Donates Kidney to Help Her Longtime Friend
Donna Kapala never expected to be a complete match when she offered one of her kidneys to her longtime friend, Sheila Hoban.
The two had met and become friends 41 years earlier on a teaching assignment in Australia. While at a reunion in Colorado, Donna noted that Sheila was unable to attend because she was on dialysis.
“Given her age and other factors, she shared with us via phone that she was fairly far down on the list,” Donna said. “Sheila was hopeful her sister would be a match [but], before we got off the call I told her, ‘Give me a call if she cannot donate. I have two and only need one of them.’ I never expected to get a call but I am so glad that I did.”
There are more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant in the United States. Of those, 85% of people are in need of a kidney.
Donna is known as a living donor, someone who is alive and healthy when they donate an organ. It’s common for living donors to give the gift of life through one of their kidneys, as Donna did, or part of their liver.
Due to a lack of obvious symptoms in the early stages, kidney disease is often considered a “silent disease.” Luckily, Donna connected with Sheila at the right time. The kidney transplant, which took place in August 2018, was a success.
“Donna is one of those people who is incredibly altruistic,” said Sheila. “We hadn’t seen each other in so long, and she came out of the blue—after not having seen one another in years—and offered to be my donor. She was the only one who tested for me, and she was a perfect match. I started crying. I was overcome. She’s an amazing human being.”
Thanks to Donna, Sheila is alive and healthy today.
“I feel great, and I am so thankful my good health allowed me this chance to help Sheila,” Donna said. “I give thanks that I could give the gift of life as my way of paying it forward and hope my grandchildren see me as a selfless person who cares for others.”
Having one kidney hasn’t slown Donna down. She continues to give back with her dog, Hunny—a rescued mini Australian Shepherd and therapy dog—at Renown Health in Reno, Nevada. Both are Donor Network West ambassadors, spreading the word about organ donation and sharing her story to encourage others to register as organ donors.