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Workplaces expanding PTO for living donors, one woman donates kidney to stranger

Transplant Discrimination
Posted at 8:14 AM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 10:15:00-04

90% of people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States need a kidney, according to organdonor.gov. It's also one of few organs that can be donated by a living person.

For Diane Finckenauer, giving a kidney to a complete stranger was a bucket list item.

"There was a transplant table from one of the local hospitals, and I just realized when I got there that the time was right," Finckenauer said." So I literally just blurted out to them at the table, you know I've always wanted to donate a kidney, I'd really like to donate a kidney. And they said 'okay' and they handed me a pamphlet, they gave me a specific name and phone number to contact."

Finckenauer is a registered dietitian that works with patients going through kidney dialysis. She says that's where her inspiration to donate came from. Stories like hers, prompted her workplace to expand paid time off to employees who donate a kidney, liver, or bone marrow. DaVita Kidney Care now offers four weeks of PTO to living donors.

Federal employees are offered 30 days of PTO when they donate a kidney or liver, and seven days when they donate bone marrow. State employees in 20 states are also covered under the Living Donor Protection Act, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Beyond that, it's up to a company how much PTO and coverage is offered for living donors.

"So if our teammates or others in the industry, other employers see that and they're equally inspired, I just think that's great. Our goal really is to promote organ donation across the board," said Dr. Jeff Giullian, the Chief Medical Officer at DaVita Kidney Care.

"The other benefits of a living donor kidney transplant is that they tend to work better, they tend to work faster and they tend on average to last longer," Giullian said.

In Finckenauer's case, her donation lead to two people getting a kidney. She ended up matching with a patient who had a friend willing to give his kidney, but wasn't a match. So his kidney went to another person in need.

"By far one of the most rewarding experiences in life," said Finckenauer. "I'm, you know, just a regular person who had a spare kidney and was able to donate. If I can do it anybody can do it. There's nothing special or different about me, you know."

You can find more information about living donation on organdonor.gov. Finckenauer also suggests calling your local transplant center. She says in her experience it just took answering a few questions over the phone to find out if she was an eligible donor.