Instead of prepping for a busy weekend at her farmers market booth, Hayley Gibbons found herself at the receiving end of applause and high fives as she took a gurney ride down a long hospital corridor on her way to donate her kidney.
Gibbons was honored with the first Hero Walk. Held at Scripps Green Hospital on May 8, 2019, more than 100 staff members, physicians and Gibbons’ supporters lined the hallway as she was wheeled into the operating room.
Traditional Walks of Honor pay tribute to a deceased donor — a solemn ceremony in which family, friends and hospital staff line the halls to show respect to patients at the end of life who are donating organs to others. But this was the first time a living donor has been honored.
“We wanted to do something special for the donors who are donating an organ to save a life,” said Christopher Marsh, MD, chief of the Scripps Organ Transplantation Service. “They are the true heroes and we want to elevate them and celebrate them for all that they are doing.”
Gibbons is part of a new, emerging trend of living organ donors.
A living organ donation is when someone who is healthy enough donates one of their kidneys or a portion of their liver to a loved one, a friend or anyone in need. This option provides another alternative to patients waiting on the national transplant waiting list for an organ from a deceased donor.
“We have come to the point that a living donor doesn’t need to be a relative. For a while it was a friend, and now it can be a stranger,” said Jonathan Fisher, MD, Scripps Clinic transplant surgeon.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are more than 110,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States.
Gibbons, an Arizona resident and owner of Help from Hayley sauces, was inspired to donate when she saw her farmers market colleague post his whole experience about donating a kidney on Facebook and saw how easy the process was for him.
In what is known as a “paired donation,” Gibbon’s kidney went to a man in another state and in turn, a kidney from Texas came to Scripps Green Hospital for Gibbon’s intended recipient. Paired donations are an excellent option when a donor and recipient are not directly compatible for transplant. Through a paired exchange donation, two or more recipients “trade” donors, allowing everyone to receive a kidney that is compatible with them.
Just one day after experiencing the first-ever Hero Walk and undergoing surgery, Gibbons expressed elation at her decision to donate and help someone in need. “They can have a wonderful life with my kidney, which is now their kidney,” said Gibbons. “It just reaffirmed that I was doing something that was bigger and better than me.”
Learn more about how to become a living organ donor.