‘Seems like a no-brainer’: Utah woman donates kidney to friend through national registry

Apr 21, 2022, 6:40 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 1:44 pm

PARK CITY, Utah — Not long ago, if you wanted to donate a kidney to a loved one, the odds were usually against you. You likely weren’t the right match. Now, thanks to the power of large numbers and algorithms and the National Kidney Registry, that doesn’t matter anymore.

“For our recipients, it’s really kind of game-changing,” said Intermountain Healthcare nephrologist Dr. Donald Morris. “It really opens up the pool drastically for our recipients.”

The registry was founded by businessman Garet Hil in 2007 after he had a difficult time finding a match for his daughter who was diagnosed with kidney failure at age 10.

The registry overcomes incompatible donors and recipients by swapping kidneys between donor-recipient pairs and connecting them in chains.

Courtney Harkins, of Park City, wanted to donate a kidney to Terry Bargar, of Boston. Bargar is her best friend’s mom and a second mom to her, she said. Harkins’ kidney, however, was incompatible.

The registry entered Harkins’ information into their database and found out her kidney was a match for a patient in San Francisco and that person’s donor matched Bargar, so they swapped kidneys.

“I love the (Bargar) family and was able to sort of continue their family through the kidney. And you know, really make sure that this family remains part of my family, too,” Harkins says.

Courtney Harkins, of Park City, donated her kidney to a longtime family friend. (KSL TV) Intermountain Healthcare's Dr. Donald Morris. (KSL TV) Courtney Harkins in the hospital for the transplant procedure. (Courtney Harkins) Courtney loves to ski and mountain bike. She has resumed those activities after the transplant surgery. (Courtney Harkins)

The registry, using a network of one hundred transplant centers, including Intermountain Transplant Services, where Morris works, facilitates more than 450 such paired exchanges every year.

“Most of the time, we can get a better match, because it’s such a larger pool throughout the country,” Morris said.

The larger pool paired with high-resolution epilate matching, a more advanced method of matching kidneys with recipients, means the organs will last much longer.

“We’re able to not use so much medication to reduce the immune system,” he said. “So that we hope that also will translate into fewer complications after kidney transplant.”

The registry now has a voucher program. Donors can donate kidneys now and get a voucher. If someone in their family needs a kidney in the future, they will be paired with a living donor.

Hil donated a kidney in 2015 in case his daughter needs another transplant in the future.

Harkins, who had been a competitive skier and still skis and mountain bikes, donated her kidney and was back on the slopes just a few weeks later.

“I’m still able to ski as hard as I was able to ski last season. I’m still able to mountain bike. I’m still able to run,” Harkins said.

“It’s a strange thing to save someone’s life even though I don’t really feel like I save someone’s life because to me it just seems like such a no-brainer,” Harkins said.

Meanwhile, Bargar can now do what she wanted to do – play with her grandchild.

“It’s the selflessness that it takes to do this. There’s no thanks that I can ever give Courtney that will be enough,” Bargar said. “I mean, how do you thank somebody for giving you life?”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Mike Hayes says he noticed changes when he started intermittent fasting...
Ayanna Likens

The health benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular and health experts say there are some benefits to it.
2 days ago
Marrianne Peterson is now cancer free...
Ayanna Likens

Woman pleads for Utahns to get HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and approximately 14,000 women in the US are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.
9 days ago
(Duke Speer)...
Ayanna Likens

How blood donations saved a Utah man’s life

Blood donation saves lives, like that of 67-year-old Duke Speer in 2021.
16 days ago
A exercise physiologist preforming one of the test's to measure breathing. (KSL-TV)...
Ayanna Likens

A health assessment could help you reach your health goals

With half of Americans looking to improve their exercise routine, Intermountain Healthcare is offering a health assessment to get a personalized plan to help you reach your goals.
22 days ago
Marc Callister lost 70 pounds...
Ayanna Likens and Cary J. Schwanitz

How to set healthy goals for the new year

With the new year around corner, setting healthy new year’s goals is top of mind for some people. 
30 days ago
Ayanna Likens

A shared cancer journey with provider and patient

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be scary, but having a support system can help you through it. One teenage girl created an unexpected close bond with her medical provider after her diagnosis.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
‘Seems like a no-brainer’: Utah woman donates kidney to friend through national registry