Living Donor Connections

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Save the world.

While kidney recipients consider their donors to be heroes — albeit without capes or superpowers — many altruistic donors’ lives look similar to yours. They’re college students, social workers or teaching assistants — not people you would immediately spot as typical donors. In fact, the most common similarity among living kidney donors is what is uncommon.

Meet Our Living Donor Connections Team
Here to help you make your donation journey easier

Debbie Shearer

Chair, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections & Board Secretary

Debbie Shearer didn’t plan on being an advocate for living kidney donors, but the universe works in mysterious ways. This mother of three became a living donor after her son, George, tragically passed away. Prior to his death, George made it known that he wanted to be an organ donor, but this turned out to not be possible due to the state of his organs at the time of his death.

Debbie knew what she had to do. Four years after George’s death, Debbie’s work to carry out her son’s wish set into motion a remarkable ripple of compassion that changed the lives of six families through a paired kidney donor chain.

From donor to mentor. Debbie has become an avid proponent of kidney donation, mentoring and guiding donors and sharing her story with the world to support others and encourage living organ donation.

Communities: Debbie launched Parents with Hope, a support group for parents who have lost their young adult children, and she serves as the Kidneys for Communities board secretary. Read more about the experience Debbie contributes to the Kidneys for Communities team here.

Jay Julian

Vice-Chair, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

Upon meeting Jay Julian, an avid outdoorsman and five-time marathon runner, the first thought that comes to mind is not that he is a two-time living donor. Jay is proof that living donors can live active and healthy lives long after their donations. Jay’s liver and kidney donations were non-directed, and his 2010 kidney donation launched a seven-person paired kidney chain.

Driven by a belief. Ask Jay, and he will tell you that living donation is one of the most unselfish and impactful ways to demonstrate love for another person. Since 2016, Jay has been mentoring living kidney donors and acting as an advocate for fellow living donors.

Communities: Jay leads support groups with Embracing the Journey, an organization that supports parents of LGBTQ+ children, and he is a member of the Colorado Animal Welfare Conference’s education committee.

Liz Dotson

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

The first intercontinental kidney chain. When she was younger, while watching TV with her family, Liz Dotson saw a mention of being at the top of the organ transplant list. Over the years, she would think about it, and one day she did a Google search on how to donate organs. A year later, on December 15, 2011, Liz kicked off the first intercontinental kidney chain when she donated to Michalis, who lives in Greece.

One common “what if” question that living kidney donors hear. Liz is a single mom of a now 18-year-old daughter, and she has a genetic blood disease; there were many “what if” questions from family and friends. One question was, “What if your dad or your daughter needs a kidney someday?”

Liz’s response: “I can’t let the fear of someone I know possibly needing my kidney in the future keep me from doing this when I know that there is a person out there who definitely needs it today.”

Not everyone supports the decision to donate. People considering kidney donation to help another person often make these decisions with their family members, and at times, not everyone agrees with the decision. While her mom understood Liz’s calling to donate, her dad did not.

Liz joined the Kidneys for Communities donor advocacy group to support people during their kidney donation journey. As a social worker and the mayor of her town in Oklahoma, Liz lives every day to make a difference in this world.

Communities: In addition to serving as mayor of her hometown, Liz is on the board of OnStage Woodward and is active in the Oklahoma Community Theatre Association.

Matt Jones

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

When you think of the type of person who started the world’s first kidney chain, which led one country to revise its kidney transplant laws, Matt Jones might not immediately come to mind.

When Matt started his kidney donation journey, he was a 28-year-old father of five children, as well as a college student who worked full time to support his family.

But then, the typical kidney donor is difficult to define. Donors, many of whom are considered lifesaving heroes, are everyday people. They are people who work 9-to-5 jobs, college students, retirees and grandparents.

Challenged along the way. Matt, like many donors, was questioned by his family. In fact, Matt’s relatives begged him to reconsider and think about his five children. His wife was not on board until she met the Phoenix woman who would receive Matt’s kidney.

When you ask Matt about the kind of person who gives his or her kidney to help another person in need, he will tell you that he is a down-to-earth and everyday type of guy, and he shares, “You don’t have to be someone special or important to change the world.”

Why did Matt donate? “I thought that if I could help one person live a decent life, that would be great,” Matt said. “It’s turned out to be a lot more than that.”

Within a year after Matt’s donation in 2007, 10 people received a kidney because of Matt’s chain. In 2011, a similar paired kidney chain saved the lives of 16 recipients of living kidney donations.

Communities: Now a father of six, Matt enjoys concerts, camping and traveling, and he serves with the Region V Head Start Association.

Harvey Popovich, MD

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

The typical donor. It’s not more nurses than teachers, not always more women than men, and not one faith over another who typically donate. And for Harvey Popovich, MD, a donor at 68 years old, living kidney donation is not tethered to a certain age.

As a practicing physician and a 28-year Army Reserve Veteran, Harvey shares, “I felt called to do something in return for all the blessings in my life. When I got this idea, it immediately felt like something I could do.”

The unexpected: As a physician, Harvey knew about the process and felt prepared for the experience, but what surprised him the most was the emotional impact on his life.

Donating to another person has taught Harvey:
● To pray with an open heart
● To accept God’s plan and enjoy the adventure
● We can all do more for others at any stage of our life

Communities: Throughout Harvey’s career he has been affiliated with several medical associations. He has volunteered his time as the medical director of Heartbeat of Toledo, as well as a volunteer physician at migrant clinics in northwest Ohio and in Mexico.

Tim Porterfield

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

Not your typical college student: Typically, people face their first life-changing decisions after graduating from high school. Do I take a gap year? Is university an option? What job should I consider? While many of Tim Porterfield’s contemporaries might have been contemplating these decisions, Tim had already made a decision that not only changed his life but shifted the course of many lives: He donated his kidney in July 2021.

Taking action on a belief. Motivated by the belief to “love your neighbor as yourself,” it was both his Christian fundamentalism and his involvement with Effective Altruism, a social movement, that inspired Tim to take action. Always considering a new approach to make the world a better place, Tim, like many who practice Effective Altruism, believes in considering data and analyzing how resources can be used to help others.

When Tim shared his decision to donate, his family became very concerned, and at times, angry, and they eventually persuaded him to wait until after college. When the pandemic hit, Tim became concerned if he waited longer, he did not know when he would have the opportunity again, which led him to donate at the age of 20. Since then, his family has put aside their hard feelings, and his mom says that although she opposed the decision, she’s proud of Tim for donating.

Living life after donating. Tim goes biking now and then and regularly does Pilates, living his life like so many other college students. He also spends his time enjoying anything related to fantasy, science fiction and “Star Wars.”

Communities: Tim is currently studying for his Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics at Purdue University and is involved with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Sherry Reischel

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

Sherry Reischel believes her biggest asset as a member of the Kidneys for Communities Donor Advocacy group is to help others who are considering donation to understand that even “average” people like her can make an impact.

We know several people who believe Sherry is anything but “average,” including the 11 people who are alive because she chose to donate her kidney and start a living kidney donor chain in April 2010, when she was 62.

While extraordinary life events might propel one person to donate, this retired kindergarten teacher’s assistant — who has been married for 50 years and has four children and 13 grandchildren — had never given donation a thought until she happened to watch Matt Jones’s story on the evening news.

Acting on a sliver of inspiration. Often, people believe living kidney donation is an act that is saved for people who have spent their careers saving lives. This retired teacher’s assistant, who spends her free time reading, sewing, hiking, volunteering, baking and helping her 95-year-old mother, hopes others like her will understand that you don’t have to have spent your life saving others to donate; it is something that you could decide on a typical Tuesday after watching the evening news.

Sherry shares, “I am an average person who has had a very rewarding kidney donation experience.”

Communities: Sherry is an active member of her church, playing a role with the church’s human concerns committee, heading up the Christmas Giving Tree project and taking an active role in inner-city projects.

Gregg Tetro

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

Gregg Tetro believes in second chances. Gregg served in the Navy, was a firefighter for 35 years, and is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who has been clean and sober for more than 33 years.

Passing along second chances. After watching a news segment about a person in need of a kidney, Gregg knew he could give someone a second chance to live. He reached out to the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation. Gregg and his wife traveled from their home in North Carolina to the University of Toledo, where Gregg had his surgery. Gregg’s wife was able to be by his side, and the expenses of nearly everything — down to his rental car — were covered. He often comments on the incredible experience he had during the donation process.

Donors have choices. Gregg’s kidney donation experience was positive, and he often encourages others to understand how organizations that coordinate kidney donation operate. Gregg recalls the first call he made to the Alliance, which was answered by Sue Rees. “Right from the start, Sue made it clear that she was my advocate,” Gregg said. “I hope I can provide others who are thinking of donating the support that my wife and I received.”

Not all donors have the opportunity to meet their kidney recipient, but Gregg did and keeps in touch with the man who received his kidney and is part of the kidney chain that Gregg started in August 2019. To date, because of Gregg’s donation, at least six people and counting have gotten a second chance at life.

Communities: Gregg is a Veteran, and over the years has been involved in The American Legion and The International Association of Fire Fighters.

Kayla Williams

Member, Kidneys for Communities: Living Donor Connections

Many believe that a kidney donation is reserved for those who live extraordinary lives. Take Kayla Williams, an accomplished author, Veteran, and assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The catalyst. Starting a kidney chain might seem like an expected next step for a woman with Kayla’s passion for serving her country. However, two colleagues who are living kidney donors were the catalyst that inspired Kayla to take action. “Hearing about their experiences started to normalize the prospect of giving away a perfectly good kidney — we have two, but only really need one,” she shares.

Kayla was shaped by her sister’s death from glioblastoma when she was young, and the idea that she could save someone else the pain of losing a loved one settled in and motivated her to learn about her options as a living kidney donor.

Four lives and counting. Since Kayla donated her kidney in 2019, Kayla’s donation chain has saved four lives and counting. The chain keeps growing.

Kayla holds several accomplished titles, but it’s her role as a mom that other working women who have children and who are considering donating might relate to most.

She enjoys camping, running and hiking with her family and their two dogs and is constantly on the go. Sharing her story of recovery after donating, Kayla comments, “As a working mother, donating a kidney was the only way I could get two weeks totally away from both personal and professional responsibilities.” And other than that immediate recovery period, donating hasn’t slowed her down at all.

Communities: In addition to playing an active role within the Veteran community, Kayla is an alumna of Bowling Green State University and American University.

Join our cause. If we can save a life, we can save the world.