At the time, she was 35 years old with two young children. Now, she’s 83 and going strong, with grandson in training to be a pastor.
Menkveld could be a walking billboard advertising the power of organ donation, as the nation’s sixth longest surviving kidney transplant recipient, according to Michael Cecka of the UCLA Immunogenetics Center.
With April the official National Donate Life Month, Tucson Medical Center is one of the hospitals teaming up with Donor Network of Arizona to work toward a goal of getting 500,000 people in Arizona registered as organ and tissue donors as part of a nationwide campaign.
One organ donor can save up to eight people, and an organ, tissue and cornea donor can save and heal the lives of up to 50 people. In 2011, 168 Arizonans donated organs, saving the lives of 477 people, according to Kris Patterson, a spokeswoman for Donor Network of Arizona.
But with 2,200 Arizonans still waiting for a transplant, there’s still work to be done.
Menkveld, who was born with just one kidney, was healthy until she was 35, when her kidney was no longer able to perform the vital function of removing waste products and excess fluid from the body. With few services in Arizona, her doctors chose to fly her to Denver, still in her robe and pajamas, where she would receive a transplant.
The first successful kidney transplant had been done just a decade earlier, according to statistics from the National Kidney Foundation.