As Sarah Holtz moved from her 20s and into her 30s, this middle and high school teacher stayed on the go. When she wasn’t taking graduate courses, she could often be found with her family and friends and her pug, Bella. She went to the gym, ran 5Ks, and spent time traveling.
A week after Sarah’s 30th birthday, this active (but always tired) teacher learned that “something wasn’t quite right” with her kidneys. A biopsy showed unexpected results: Stage V Congenital Chronic Kidney Disease. By the time doctors discovered it, Sarah’s kidneys were already severely scarred and her kidney function was down to 14 percent.
Summer 2017 was challenging for Sarah. Peritoneal dialysis was painful and put immense strain on her body. Her lab results showed her that her body was rapidly shutting down. ER visits and hospitalizations were frequent. Sarah didn’t tell anyone, but she secretly began mentally tracking her “last” memories and saying goodbyes to her loved ones.
When Sarah began preparing her classroom for students to return in fall 2017, she was fighting discouragement and exhaustion. Then, at a staff meeting the week before school started, her school’s administrators and colleagues had a surprise for her: “All of the staff was in the room. My family, friends, and donor emerged from a closet on cue!” Completely unknown to Sarah, a teacher from a neighboring district had heard about Sarah on Facebook through a friend of a friend. Sarah continues, “I had no idea who Carolyn Davidson was, and there she was asking if I wanted her kidney and telling me we were a perfect match. It felt so surreal, and I was relieved that I was going to live.”
On October 30, 2017, Sarah and Carolyn became what they call “kidney sisters.” Sarah woke up from surgery “instantly healed. No more shortness of breath, no more nausea. It was just gone.”
For those considering donor registration, Sarah encourages: “Be giving and compassionate even after you are gone. Your organs don’t go with you, but can outlive you and save many lives!” She continues, “Words can’t explain what it means to me that a stranger made the choice to give me an organ. My mom was the first to give me life, and my kidney sister was the second.”
Always a teacher, Sarah would also like to take this chance to dispel some myths.
- Organ transplant recipients can donate blood. They must only wait one year after transplant.
- Even if you aren’t eligible to donate blood, you may still be eligible to donate an organ.
- No matter what health challenges you face, never rule yourself out to be a donor. Let medical professionals decide.
Finally, Sarah reiterates, “I have no restrictions being a kidney recipient. I get to live my best life!”