SOUDAN- “I’ve always been an organ donor,” said Steven Olson of Soudan. “Ever since I got my driver’s license.” But signing up to donate your organs in case of untimely death is one …
SOUDAN- “I’ve always been an organ donor,” said Steven Olson of Soudan. “Ever since I got my driver’s license.” But signing up to donate your organs in case of untimely death is one thing, deciding to give up one of your kidneys to help out a friend is another.
After signing up on his license form, Olson said he hadn’t given it much thought, that is, until he found out that the fiancée of his best friend was in dire need of a kidney transplant.
“She was so sick and wasn’t having any luck,” he said. “So I offered to go and get tested to see if I would be a match.”
“There was only a six- percent chance he would be a match,” said Nicole White, who is now doing well after receiving Olson’s kidney on Feb. 6.
“Dialysis was killing me,” said 26-year-old Nicole White, who suffers from a rare genetic disease that attacks the kidneys. White has struggled with kidney disease since she was a teenager at Tower-Soudan High School.
White has been undergoing dialysis, three times a week for almost four hours, for the last 11 years. The procedure was never fun, she said, but she had developed a decent pain tolerance.
“You get used to it,” she said.
A blood disorder meant that White was not compatible with an organ donation from a deceased donor, so a living donor was her only option. And testing had shown that her own relatives were not compatible donors.
Olson said he felt he could give White a second chance at life.
“There wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel with dialysis,” he said. “The doctor told me that the dialysis was killing her.”
The organ donation process took about a year, he said. After initial blood testing showed he was a possible match, there were many tests done at the University of Minnesota Transplant Center over the course of almost a year.
Luckily, White’s health was stable even with her long-term prognosis.
The surgery was done at the U of M. White actually sailed through the procedure without any of the complications the doctors had been worried about. She was just cleared to go back to work, about a month after surgery, and has her first job interview this week.
And right now, White is more concerned about her donor, than herself.
While Olson’s medical costs are being covered by her insurance, he has missed work since the surgery, and even when cleared to go back to work, will have restrictions on how much weight he can lift, an issue with his job at Royal Tire in Virginia.
“My boss is being supportive of my decision,” he said.
And while White hasn’t suffered any complications, Olson developed a painful internal infection about a month after the surgery, which is now being treated.
Olson said that while his wife Paige supported his decision to be a donor, other family members were skeptical.
“My mom was pretty leery about it,” he said, “and other friends thought I was crazy.”
Olson said the idea that he could make the decision who his kidney was going to was important to him.
“I really didn’t think twice about it,” he said.
Olson has three young children, Audriana, Ethan,and Harper.
“I told them I was going to give somebody help,” he said, “and that I would feel bad for a little while.”
“I know it seems scary,” Olson said. “But once you go through everything and sit down and think about it, it’s not as bad as people think.”
Recovery from the surgery has included a lot of pain, especially at night, he said.
Even with the pain and complications, Olson said he is happy with his decision to donate.
“I would rather make the decision to donate and be able to watch the person become healthy again,” he said.
“Seeing the expression on Nicole’s face, and how happy she was, it was enough for me,” he said. “I knew I did something good.”
While it has become more common for family members to donate a kidney to a relative, non-family donations such as this are still fairly rare.
And while there was a GoFundMe campaign set up to fund the surgery, White is hoping that people will step up to help out the Olson family at this time.
A fund has been set up at the Embarrass-Vermillion Federal Credit Union (Steven Olson Benefit Fund), and donations can be made at the Tower office, or any other EVFCU office.