This Christmas, a woman from Wilton, Maine, is preparing to give the gift of life. Beckie Bowerling has signed up to donate her kidney to someone she may never know.
"I have two kidneys, I only need one, so to be able to help is amazing," she said.
Bowerling said the idea to donate first occurred to her about 15 years ago, while working at the Franklin Savings Bank in Farmington. One of her customers was a veteran who regularly received dialysis treatments. She will never forget his joy when he finally received a kidney donation.
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About six months ago, she was watching the local news and saw a story about the need for kidney donors. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 110,000 people are on a waiting list, and each day, 13 people die waiting.
"I just looked at my husband and said, 'I'm doing it,'" she recalled.
Bowerling went to the Maine Transplant Program and signed up to be a non-directed donor. According to Dr. Juan Palma at the Maine Transplant Program, these kind of altruistic donors are extremely rare: only about three in Maine each year, and 200 across the country, volunteer.
"I think the donors are wired differently than us," Dr. Palma said. "They see the greater good."
Dr. Palma said sometimes these non-directed donors can be the missing link for what’s called a kidney donation chain – triggering successful transplants for multiple people.
"It's amazing," he said. "Donation basically portrays the best of human kind."
If everything goes according to plan, Bowering could be in surgery as soon as January. Recovery from this major surgery typically takes three days in the hospital, and several weeks of rest.
"My daughter did ask – can you die from this surgery?" said Bowering. "The chances are so, so low, but for the people who don’t get a kidney – they will die."
It will be up to the recipient to decide to reveal his or her name. Bowering hopes they will decide to meet her.
"Just to give them a hug, and see the smile on their face – to know I've extended their life," she said.
She hopes her story will inspire others to consider organ donation.