Pastor Jeff Smith

Petaluma, CA
Living Kidney Donor

“The recipient can be a more active father again.”

“I wake up sometimes and think, ‘Did I really give a kidney to someone?’” said Pastor Jeff Smith of the Living Word Lutheran Church in Petaluma.

Pastor Jeff SmithHis decision to donate a kidney to a stranger in late 2012 left the Northern California man with no limitations and no symptoms.

The procedure at UCSF Medical Center was part of a kidney chain, in which computer programs match a series of incompatible pairs of donors and recipients who are compatible with each other. Someone like Jeff can start a long-lasting chain since the series of recipients need not come to a close in the form of a designated recipient of his own. Jeff was a participant in a seven-recipient chain.

The 61-year-old said he is grateful to have received a letter from the man who received his kidney. “The blessing has been to know something about my recipient,” said Jeff. “God gave him the kidney; he gets the credit.”

The two have corresponded and met. Jeff learned the kidney is the man’s second transplant. His first lasted for 20 years, but then gave out, putting him back on dialysis for a full year.

Not only is the recipient free from that now, but he has a three-year-old adopted daughter with special health needs. “So now he can be a more active father again.”

“I feel a bit uncomfortable drawing attention to myself. But if talking about it helps get the word out about what a great opportunity living donation is to help others, then I am willing to do so.”