West Chester, PA
Kidney transplant patient
Gwendolyn was just 20 years old when she died. She was an easygoing young woman who loved nature, being by the water and going camping. To help make sense of this terrible loss, her mother and brother made a life-saving decision at a difficult time — they decided to honor her life and memory through organ donation.
Timmy Nelson was the lucky recipient of Gwendolyn’s kidney. Timmy had been on dialysis for three and half years and was approaching stage 4 renal failure. In July of 2017, he was preparing to go to a family reunion when he got the call from the transplant center. On July 22, Timmy’s 60th birthday, he woke up in the hospital with a new kidney — and a new purpose in life.
“I feel like giving back is one of the reasons I’m still here,” says Timmy.
After his transplant, Gwendolyn’s family sent him a letter sharing a little about their loved one. “I owe a lot to her, her family and the folks that helped me through this,” says Timmy. “I’m trying to pay some of that forward. I do it with joy. If I’m blessed to ever meet her family, I want to be able to stand tall and share with them that Gwendolyn and I are doing some good work. I hope that would bring some solace to them.”
Timmy shares his story annually with young medical students, volunteers often with Gift of Life Donor Program and, in the four years since his transplant, has spoken to over 1,000 patients about dialysis.
And that’s just the beginning of his drive to give back. This organ recipient volunteers at a food shelter three days a week. He works with the United Way to get community grants for the underprivileged. And currently, he’s working with a local hospital to help educate people about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Honoring Gwendolyn, his kidney donor, is a big part of what motivates him. “I can’t help but think about Gwendolyn when I think about my kidney. That’s one of the reasons I work so hard at trying to be almost worthy of this kidney. Even if she isn’t here to see it, she and I are doing things to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Timmy is also thankful for the opportunity he gained to make memories with his own family — including walking his youngest daughter down the aisle.
“My youngest daughter got married last August,” says Timmy. “One of my fears when I contracted kidney disease was wondering if I would be able to walk her down the aisle. So, I say with great pride that I was there to do that.”
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