‘I Don’t Want Anyone To Suffer’: Utah Woman Donates Kidney To Complete Stranger
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — This week kicks off Transplant Awareness Month. Finding an organ donor with the right match isn’t always easy, but there is a growing need — especially in Utah.
Most people have two kidneys, but among a tight-knit group of five people, the kidney count totals to not 10 — but six.
They’ve each been affected by a kidney transplant in one way or another.
Eric Orwin, 26, is one of them.
“I had a birth defect when I was born, so my kidneys would never fully functioning,” Orwin said. “I started having problems when I was 21 and got told I couldn’t work anymore because that all the toxins in my body.”
He’s been on dialysis for more than three years.
“You go to sit in a chair for four hours, three times a week,” he explained.
Orwin said the treatment was physically and mentally exhausting.
“I started getting depressed, and my wife decided she was going to help out,” he said.
His wife, Mayra Orwin, created a flyer seeking a kidney donor for her husband. She plastered the flyer all over her community and even online.
That’s how 31-year-old Amber Taylor happened to see Eric Orwin’s flyer on a neighborhood Facebook page. She was inspired to step up to the plate after watching her own boss, Laurie Meachem, receive a kidney transplant. Meacham got her kidney from her sister.
“It was amazing to me that she was willing to change somebody’s life that she hadn’t even met,” Meacham said. “I couldn’t even think about that without crying.”
Taylor said giving is just part of her DNA, even to a stranger.
“I can’t say no … I don’t want anyone to suffer ever,” she explained.
Eric Orwin was elated by the news. “When I found out that she was actually willing to donate, I was so happy. It changed my whole mood. I was super excited knowing that I was finally getting a second chance at life.”
When Eric Orwin first met her, he said he praised Taylor for saving his life even though she wasn’t getting much out of it.
Taylor is married and the mother of two kids, but she felt the surgery was still worth the inconvenience and time away from her family.
“It could change someone else’s life permanently and forever… It’s just the right thing to do,” she said.
The transplant was successful, and now Taylor and the Orwins joke that she will always be part of Eric Orwin.
“I feel like we’re family now,” Taylor said.
Intermountain Healthcare’s Jerold Wilcox, the kidney transplant nurse coordinator at Intermountain Medical Center, said there is a growing need for donors of all types. He said there are about 800 people in Utah waiting for an organ transplant and 600 people waiting for kidney transplants.
He said the average Utahn typically waits about two to three years before receiving a transplant, although he said that time-frame can be shortened if the transplant is from a living donor.
Wilcox said new research shows about 18 people die every day nationwide waiting for a transplant.
He said 100,000 people start dialysis nationwide every year and sadly, one in four will likely die within that year.
Wilcox said without dialysis, kidney failure can be extremely fatal.
“It helps people live a fuller, richer life where they wouldn’t have before,” he said.
Wilcox knows the importance of it first hand. He is a kidney transplant recipient himself.
“My life was saved because of someone who was willing to donate,” Wilcox said.
He said your body only needs one kidney to function. Taylor said she was comforted by this thought while making her decision.
“The one I have left kind of picks up the slack. It increases what it can do,” she explained.
Taylor said her sacrifice was worth it.
“One of the greatest experiences of my life outside of becoming a mother,” she said.
Eric Orwin has found new hope for his future. He said he is “wanting kids, wanting a house, wanting everything — the dream. So that’s what I’m going to work towards once I get better.”
If you are interested in becoming a donor, visit intermountainhealthcare.org/DonateLife.