She was among over 200 individuals who anonymously donated to Canadian Blood Services' national kidney-paired donation program.
When we hear stories of selfless acts of kindness, we can’t help but be amazed and inspired. Such is the case with this woman, who nobly donated her kidney to a stranger. Carolynne Burkholder-James, a lawyer from Prince George's County, has written many deathbed wills for clients and their families. This has inspired her to give the gift of life to a person who she has never met. She underwent medical screening and then flew 700 kilometers to Vancouver General Hospital for kidney removal, and the kidney was soon sent to Winnipeg for the patient, per CBC News. She said, "It's really only a month or so out of my life to make such an impact on other people. I really felt strongly that this was some way I could give back."
Burkholder-James was one of more than 200 individuals who anonymously donated to Canadian Blood Services' (CBS) national kidney-paired donation program. People involved in the program note that these donations from strangers have a tremendous effect, leading to a chain reaction of people in need of transplants receiving support.
B.C. woman donates kidney to a stranger in Winnipeg— PG Hospice House (@PGHospice) January 31, 2023
Carolynne Burkholder-James's kidney was removed in December, and immediately shipped to Manitoba https://t.co/yYVG0WiE9N
This system, which is also known as chained kidney donations, relies on a pool of anonymous donors and patients in need of kidneys being matched based on their blood types.
The kidney paired donation program matches transplant candidates with living donors.— Canadian Blood Services (@CanadasLifeline) October 9, 2019
Find out how can become someone’s hero through living donation at https://t.co/sljtUJw4br#NationalFamilyWeek#CanadasLifeline#OrgansTissuesForLife pic.twitter.com/e1IyoTBsnd
Figures from Canadian Blood Services indicate that the majority of donors in the national kidney-paired donation program are directed donors, meaning they are a relative, partners, friends, or colleagues of the transplant patient, and their blood type is compatible with the patient. People waiting for a kidney transplant that does not have a matching directed donor require non-directed anonymous donors to provide them with a kidney. The British Columbia Transplant Society reported that in 2021, 75 kidneys were donated by live donors, while only 150 were donated by those who had passed away. The Society noted that the outcomes of kidney transplants are typically more successful when the organ is donated by a live donor.
Burkholder-James commented that when she read the New York Times article about chained organ donations a decade ago, she became motivated to make a difference by donating a kidney anonymously.
She stated, "I was like, 'Wow, I could do that someday.' And a few years ago, I decided to do it." With the constant demand for kidney transplants in British Columbia, Olwyn Johnston, medical director of kidney transplant at Vancouver General Hospital, appreciates the altruism of anonymous donors. She highlighted that it "takes a certain type of person to be so altruistic to do something like that," noting that these donors are willing to go through all the necessary steps to donate.
Burkholder-James, a mother of three, compared the procedure of removing one of her kidneys to that of a C-section. "The first few days were rough, but after that, it was much better," she said. She advocates for anonymous kidney donation and encourages people to sign up at transplant.bc.ca.