Spirit of Alabama: Law students offer strangers the gift of life
At first glance, the trio sitting at a red-blanketed table at the University of Alabama School of Law looked like they were touting their latest research or class project. Instead, they were telling their stories of how they came to offer up a kidney to a complete stranger.
Angelica Mamani, Katrina Smith and Ryne Smith, at different times and in different ways, heard about the critical need of the Non-Directed Organ Donor Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Kidney Center. While most kidney donations come from a family member, anyone can sign up to donate to a match as a living donor or become an organ donor in case of death.
“I myself have been the recipient by way of scholarships and just various other things, and someone who has never met me giving some sort of a gift,” said Mamani. “And so this it, not knowing the person I actually appreciate more because it meant that there was no pressure, there was no guilt and there could be no question about doing it for the right reason.”
More than 2,200 Alabamians are on the waiting list for a kidney donation, and under 200 donations nationwide come from people who aren’t related to their recipient.
But these three said what they did doesn’t deserve all the hype.
“I don’t think I did anything special or hard,” said Katrina Smith. “I think that my recipient did all the hard work, and she’s still doing all the hard work because what she went through was 20 times worse than anything we had to go through. I would do it a million times over again.”
Donation isn’t a walk in the park. It’s major surgery, and it’s months before donors get back to normal. But Ryne Smith said she’s been through worse.
“Some of the early semesters of law school was much harder,” Ryne Smith said.
All three met with their recipients after their lifesaving surgery. The donors’ families were concerned about them giving part of themselves to a stranger, but supportive all the same.
“Everyone had a little bit of questions, but I think once I explained why I was doing this everyone was pretty supportive,” Ryne Smith said. “This kind of thing for me is not particularly unusual. I kinda make these rash decisions, so I think my family knows by now that once I decide to do something, it’s not worth fighting it.”
Now that they’re fully recovered, they’re moving on to the next important thing: Graduating.