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Stories of hope

Austin Lee: Giving back and helping others

Austin Lee, transplant recipient

I am a two-time kidney transplant recipient who has overcome the barriers of kidney disease since birth. I was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease as an infant known as posterior urethral valve just a couple months after I was born. I have undergone peritoneal dialysis twice in my life. Although I’ve dealt with these health challenges throughout my life I have not let them deter me from the path God has put me on.

Austin Lee in the hospital as a young child

My mother donated a kidney to me when I was four years old.

I received my first kidney transplant when I was four years old. My lovely mother was my first organ donor, donating her kidney to me in July of 1993. I had to overcome numerous hospital procedures during my transplant journey, and I received wonderful care as a young child until the age of 24 years old. My first transplanted kidney gave me the gift of life and was able to function well for 14 years. Unfortunately, I was dealt a setback in late 2007 when my kidney went into renal rejection.

I was devastated when my kidney went into rejection because I knew it would cause a major lifestyle change. I missed my high school prom because I was hospitalized for kidney failure. For the second time in my life I faced another life-threatening illness and needed dialysis to help keep me alive while I waited for a second renal transplant. As a 17-year-old senior who was preparing to graduate high school, I was shocked that I would be going on dialysis. At that time I was not fully educated about dialysis treatments and all that they entailed, and everything seemed to be happening so fast. My family helped me to make the best choice of dialysis treatment that would fit my lifestyle. They cared for me as a child when I received peritoneal dialysis treatments in our home at the age of 12 months old before my first transplant. I endured these peritoneal dialysis treatments every night from the time I was 12 months old to 4 years old.

I was so eager and passionate about receiving a second kidney because I did not want to have the reality of needing to survive on peritoneal dialysis for the second time in my life. While waiting for a second lifesaving kidney, I researched transplant medications, watched kidney transplant videos on YouTube, and I even dreamt of receiving a kidney transplant one day.

Austin Lee in the hospital

My second kidney match was by way of a kidney paired exchange program.

I received “The Call” in late May of 2010 from the transplant coordinator who told me there was a match by way of a kidney paired exchange program. I was more than excited and emotional to receive this call because I knew a better quality of life would be coming, and that my dream of receiving a kidney would come true. I received my second kidney 11 years ago from a living donor on June 8, 2010, and I no longer had to do peritoneal dialysis at home.

Since I received the gift of life for the second time, I’ve made it my purpose to give back to my community. I’m now a patient care volunteer at Children’s National where I have committed over 500 hours of my time volunteering with pediatric patients. I also serve as a new Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) member, and I am committed to improving the overall care and experiences for other patients and families of the hospital. Children’s National honored me with the Volunteer Excellence Award in 2014, and I continue to be a voice for kidney patients in my local community and worldwide. I’ve also been recognized by the Washington Regional Transplant Community as Volunteer of the Year in 2017, and I was chosen for the Working 4 The Community Award during Black History Month in 2017 too.

I am currently pursuing a career in Early Childhood and I want to become a Child Life Specialist to help other pediatric patients experiencing similar health battles to those that I experienced. On June 8, 2021 I celebrated my 11th year with my second donated kidney. I am now eligible for the Transplant Quarter Century Club, having lived 14 years with my first transplanted kidney and 11 years with my second. The quarter century club consists of and recognizes recipients who have lived with their transplants for 25 years or more. I want to continue to mentor young pediatric patients on the importance of taking care of their transplanted kidneys so that they may be able to live out all their life dreams and goals.


April is National Donate Life Month

This month is a time to celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye and tissue donors — and to encourage more people to register! This year, CareDx has offered to match $10,000 raised in the month of April to support UNOS’ lifesaving work. Learn more about how to support UNOS and have your impact doubled.

Saving lives together

Give a gift to support innovative research and data-driven projects working to reduce waiting time, enhance recipient quality of life and increase transplants.

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