Living to donate: a daughter’s gift to her mom

Every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

But as the number of people in need of a lifesaving organ transplant continues to grow, the number of donors does not. However, one local woman is doing her part to help by becoming a living donor.         

“I am going to do this, as long as I am healthy. I am going to give my kidney,” said 27-year-old Savannah Allds.

Savannah said it’s been a goal of hers all her life, and her mother can attest to that ambition.

“She is pretty determined — stubborn sometimes– and she certainly is set in her beliefs,” said Cynthia Allds, Savannah’s mother.

“I have known for a very long time I wanted to be a donor, but didn’t get very serious with it until my 20s when my mom’s health declined,” said Savannah.

“My kidney function right now is 18 to 19 percent,” said Cynthia.

In her early 20s, Cynthia was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which is a disease where cysts form on the kidneys and destroy their function.

At first, Cynthia didn’t really worry about it, but over the past several months the disease has started to take its toll.

“You may look at me and say you look healthy, but it’s really how you feel. With that low of a function, it’s very tiring. I can get up and two hours later I am exhausted,” said Cynthia.

“I saw what happens to the body and the progression of the disease throughout the years,” said Savannah.

“This year I was told I have been teetering on preparing for dialysis. When I was told that, I started crying because reality is here,” said Cynthia.

Cynthia needs a kidney transplant. Doctors typically look at family members first because they are more likely to be a match, but polycystic kidney disease is hereditary, which means Savannah is at risk of having it too. However, Savannah isn’t going to stop her from trying to donate her kidney to her mom.

“I fought with my mom’s doctors. They didn’t want me to do it until I am 30 but my mom doesn’t’ have until then,” said Savannah.

“She literally sat there and argued with him that she wanted genetic testing,” said Cynthia.

After countless tests, scans and months of waiting, Savannah was cleared to donate her kidney to her mother. On June 24, Savannah and her mother checked into Mayo Clinic Health System in Rochester, Minnesota.

“If I can give my mom 5 to 10 years with a healthy kidney, I would be grateful for that,” said Savannah.

“Words can’t even explain it, really. It’s just kind of like an odd sense of my daughter is giving me a gift,” said Cynthia. “I gave her life and she is giving me life back basically and it’s just, I am glowing inside but I don’t have words to describe it.”

The transplant was successful and after about eight weeks of taking it easy Savannah will be back to normal, but her mother’s life will be changed forever and she has her daughter to thank for that.

“I love you (Savannah),” said Cynthia.

Because Savannah was being tested to give her kidney to her mother, throughout the entire process she had her own team —  a team that knew nothing about her mother’s situation so that they could keep Savannah’s best interest in the forefront when making the final decision to allow her to donate her kidney.

If Savannah had not been able to give her kidney, Cynthia said she had a friend who was willing to donate a kidney to her as well so she said she has been very lucky.      

Allds is one of about 7,700 people who have donated an organ this year so far. Her hope is that  by sharing her story, others will consider being a living donor or sign up to be a donor after death. You can find more information at donorregistry.wisconsin.gov.

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