FREDERICK, Colo. – A Colorado woman is about to become one of only a handful of people nationwide known as a “double donor”.
Brandi Thornton has already donated one of her kidneys to a stranger. Now she is preparing to donate a portion of her living to a baby at Children’s Hospital Colorado she has never met but matched with on the donor registry.
“I know he’s little because they’re taking a smaller portion and I was told that he’s very young and he’s very sick,” she told FOX31.
Brandi says she was inspired to become an organ donor after a little girl she babysat died while waiting for new lungs.
“The thought of her sitting in the hospital knowing that she needed lungs in order to survive and knew that there was a chance that they weren’t going to come, it just bothered me so much,” Brandi said.
A few years later, she came across a Facebook page helping a Longmont woman find a kidney donor.
“I kept thinking about her. Something just kept telling me you need to go back and look at that page,” she said.
Brandi had never met the woman but agreed to put her name on the living donor list with her as part of the “paired kidney exchange”, which helps create chains of kidney donors and recipients. The Longmont woman died before they were matched in a chain.
“I went back into the database and matched immediately with a gentleman in Ohio,” Brandi said.
She donated one of her kidneys to the stranger, whom she has now met.
“My kidney gets to go to concerts. It’s working out,” she said. That was in March 2017.
“I still felt like I wasn’t really done. I donated a kidney but I still felt like it was on my heart to do more,” she said.
She went through another round of donor testing and was approved to donate a portion of her liver too.
“It’s very rare,” she said.
According to Brandi, there may be fewer than ten double donors in the United States.
“A lot of hospitals don’t allow kidney donors to donate a portion of their liver because nobody knows what the long term is,” she said.
Within weeks, her liver matched the needs of a baby at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“Unfortunately it sounds like he’s not really a candidate for a deceased donor and I’m the one option he has so if I had said no then I don’t know where he’d be right now,” she said.
The surgery was scheduled for May 29th.
“Children’s recommended that we move it up because they were afraid that he would become sicker if we waited much longer,” she said.
She will now undergo the major surgery to remove a portion of her organ on May 2nd.
“It’s very short notice to get kids and a house ready to be in recovery for 12 weeks,” Brandi said.
Brandi is the health clerk at Red Hawk Elementary School in Erie. The original surgery date meant that she would be in recovery during the summer break. Now, she will have to miss a month of work and a month of pay because she does not qualify for FMLA leave.
“I was approved for a leave of medical absence, which means I can return to my job in the fall but I do not get paid for it,” she said.
Brandi organized a GoFundMe account to help her family cover their bills while she is off of work.
“People just ask, are you crazy?” Brandi said. “When I think about it I don’t see anything strange about it but I can see how somebody would say it’s really weird that you would remove an organ and give it to somebody you don’t know. But somebody has to do it.”
Brandi is a mother of two young girls. She does Crossfit, she loves to craft, and she is married to a police officer. She says she worries about the surgery and the risks but believes they are worth it to save lives.
“People would ask me, what if your girls need a kidney? What if something happens? And my thought is always, what if it doesn’t?” she said.
Now she just hopes that her donation will be successfully transplanted into the baby so he can grow up healthy.
“I really want this to work for this little boy,” she said. “This little boy has lived his entire life being sick so having to go through 12 weeks of recovery is nothing compared to what some of these people have to go through.”