April is Donate Life Month. 5 On Your Side is highlighting donors and recipients in our community. A mother of five is setting the ultimate example of selflessness for her children.
Jackie Miller, a Washington, Missouri orthodontist decided to give one of her two kidneys to a total stranger.
“It was just an incredible journey,” said Miller.
Miller wanted her kidney to be donated to the next person on the kidney transplant list. Miller would never know who the recipient was unless the recipient decided to reach out to her.
“It’s something she wanted to do for someone else and that's pretty much the way Jackie lives,” said Tim Huber, Miller’s husband.
Miller makes giving back a way of life. Every year she volunteers in Honduras. Miller extracts teeth for residents of Honduras in dire need of medical care. You can also find her helping at the concession stands at her kid’s school, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School.
Miller also adopted two of her five children from Guatemala.
Statistics compiled by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, show 224 people in the U.S. gave a kidney to a stranger in 2016. Hundreds more were tested but not approved.
“They're just saying I want to donate my kidney because I think it's the right thing to do. I want to help people. I want to help society. I don't care who you give it to but I want to do this,” said Gene Ridolfi, administrator of the Barnes-Jewish and Washington University Transplant Center.
Miller said the operation took a couple of hours and she was up, walking the halls of the hospital that same night. Three days after the operation, Miller was released from the hospital. Miller explained she donated her kidney as a 49th birthday present to herself.
“It was my birthday gift to myself, it was my birthday when I came home,” she said.
Six months after the surgery, another present came. Miller received a letter from the man whose life she saved.
“I did not expect it, but thrilled to have it. I cried when I read it,” she said.
The recipient thanked her for the gift of life and said everything was going wonderfully.
Miller said that letter gave her great peace and she hopes to meet the recipient in-person, soon.
“I just wanted to know the person that received my kidney was healthy. I wanted to know that it was working and everything was going well,” she said.
Join 5 On Your Side for the “Celebrate Life” Walk on April 29 at Creve Coeur Lake Park. Anne Allred is the emcee for the event. For more information on the 5k run/walk or to learn more about being an organ donor visit www.midamericatransplant.org