Living Donor: Leslie Kallenbach
"We have two kidneys for a reason."
Leslie Kallenbach of Racine, Wisconsin, is no stranger to organ transplantation. Her brother-in-law had 12 wonderful years with his family following a heart transplant at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in 1988. Her nephew donated one of his kidneys to his son.
"I saw firsthand how organ donation is truly a gift of life," says Leslie. "When I found out that a friend needed a kidney, I just felt in my heart that I wanted to help."
Leslie had known for some time that a church acquaintance, David Raine, was experiencing kidney problems. She didn't realize how dire his situation was until she ran into his wife, Lois, one Sunday after Mass in the summer of 1999. "Lois told me how Dave's health was declining and that he was on the kidney transplant list. I asked my family that day what they would think if I came forward as a living donor.
"I really can't explain why or how I came to my decision," she continues. "From the moment the thought entered my mind, I felt it was right. Dave and I refer to it as a 'Godsend.' The Spirit moved me, and it was meant to be."
Leslie and Dave were a perfect match. In most living kidney donor cases, the donor is a family member because of the very specific blood and genetic requirements. "Before I volunteered, I didn't even know if Dave and I were the same blood type," says Leslie. "After our first round of blood tests showed that we matched, we both knew that everything else would fall into place."
In August 2000, the YWCA of Racine honored Leslie with its "Women of Distinction Award for Courage." At the presentation, she was asked to speak about her experience and the importance of organ donation. David Raine, looking every bit the picture of health, was in the audience.