“I Could, I Would, and I Did!”

For someone who had never even heard of a living kidney donation before July 2018, within five months, Terri Vining, 63, of Coral, Mich., willingly gave her own kidney to a complete stranger.

Terri Vining donated a kidney to a complete stranger in late 2018. Here she is posing with one of her rescued cats, Fred.

“I knew nothing about kidney donation. I thought you had to die before you could donate any of your organs,” said Vining.

Drawing from divine inspiration as well as a family’s plea to save the life of a young woman who desperately needed a kidney transplant, Vining underwent the living donor process at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Program.

“I remember the date exactly,” said Vining. “It was Sunday, July 17, 2018, and I looked at The Grand Rapids Press, and I saw the story of a young lady in need of a kidney transplant.

“I thought, ‘I will give her mine.'” That prompt decision led her to emailing Andrea Beck-Lundskow, donor coordinator at Mercy Health, who sent her paperwork to begin the process.

A few days later, Vining heard on the news that the young woman who’d inspired her had indeed received a kidney. “It was kind of a letdown that I could no longer give her mine, but after about a half hour, I thought, ‘I will check it out. I wonder if anyone else needs one…maybe I can still give mine.'”

Vining reached back out to the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant team, who told her that she could still donate altruistically if she wanted to, meaning that her kidney would go to someone Vining didn’t know or might not ever meet.

Terri Vining poses with her “new” 1954 Willys truck, purchased the same month that Vining decided to donate a kidney.

“The process to be evaluated as an altruistic donor is basically the same as any other donor with a few exceptions. We encourage altruistic donors, especially, to consider their motivation to go through with donation since the donor process can have ups and downs,” said Beck-Lundskow. “Living kidney donors will tell you that the process is rewarding but takes a lot of dedication and patience.”

Vining began her research about kidney disease. Was she surprised.

“I had no idea so many people needed a kidney.”

In Michigan, as of April 1, 2019, there are more than 2,300 people on the transplant waiting list for a kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. Mercy Health alone has 325 people who are waiting for a kidney.

What did her husband, Randy, have to say about his wife giving a kidney to someone she has never met, and maybe never will?

“Go for it,” he said, without hesitation. With his support and love, as well as from her four siblings and stepdaughter, Vining chose a date for the surgery in December 2018.

“We tell potential altruistic donors to expect two to three months for the evaluation process, and if they are approved, they can schedule surgery typically two to three months after that,” said Beck-Lundskow.

Terri Vining with her supportive husband, Randy, who encouraged her throughout the kidney donation process.

For someone who had always been really “into health,” Vining’s recovery process from the kidney donation went extremely well.

“It was the best experience I had ever had in a hospital; it was the most rewarding.” Vining was up walking by 4 p.m. the day of surgery and was discharged the following evening.

As a hospice volunteer for 18 years, Vining knows a lot about caring for those at the end of life. Donating her kidney was helping someone at a different stage of their lives, so they could live a longer, more fulfilling one.

“I never had kids of my own, so this kind of feels like I have given someone life,” said Vining.

Does it bother her that she might never meet the person who received her kidney?

“No, all that matters is that this person has a better life. I could give someone that.”

Reflecting back on the months-long process as she performs her daily devotionals, Vining has a mantra she tells herself: “I could, I would, and I did!”

“If someone is considering donating a kidney altruistically, I would encourage them to learn all they can from our website and to call us and ask questions,” said Beck-Lundskow.  “We’re here as a resource for anyone who is even considering it.”


1 thought on ““I Could, I Would, and I Did!””

  1. I have the honor of calling this beautiful inside and out woman, my step mom!
    Her loving, caring and understanding soul is one in a million.
    What an amazing heart that lead her through this journey that has forever changed someone’s (and their entire family’s) life!


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