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Fate, faith & friendship: Greenfield church acquaintances share kidney donation journey

"Ten months after she said she'd be my donor, we were in surgery"
Penny Givan and Annie Travis
Posted at 11:49 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 09:07:24-04

GREENFIELD — Every nine minutes, someone in the U.S. is added to the national organ transplant list, and the majority on the more than 100,000-person waiting list is looking for a kidney.

One Indianapolis woman found herself in that situation twice.

Penny Givan’s first kidney transplant came from her brother when she was 33 years old.

Givan quickly became an advocate for organ donation. She participated in the Transplant Games, medaling several times in a variety of sports.

Penny during the Transplant Games.

“For about 16 years it was doing well. Then that kidney hit its life span and started losing function again,” Givan said. In fall 2020, Givan learned another kidney transplant was needed. That’s when she turned to her church group for prayers.

Annie Travis was in Givan’s life group at Harvest church in Greenfield. The two are both members of the congregation.

“We hardly even ran into each other. I only knew her because she was in the life group,” Givan said.

Travis said becoming an organ donor was a part of God’s plan for her. Life circumstances, she said, were perfect for her to become a donor.

“It’s something I had thought about before and wanted to do,” Travis said.

She was just waiting for the right person to come along.

“I told the lord, 'If you bring me somebody who needs a kidney, I’d be happy to do it,'" Travis said. “Penny was that person."

During the life group meeting in December of 2020, Travis told Givan she’d be her donor.

“I said, 'I hope you will consider me as your kidney donor,'” Travis recalled.

Givan said she was speechless.

“I wish someone would’ve taken a screenshot of my face because I’m sure I was just dumbfounded. I didn’t even know what to say," she said.

After appointments, testing, and waiting it was official, Travis was Givan’s donor. During the time leading up to the transplant, Travis even lost some 80 pounds in order to donate.

On October 8, 2021, the two were in the operating room at IU Health University Hospital.

Penny Givan and Annie Travis are at IU Health University Hospital before surgery.

“I can’t feel that I have one kidney and Penny gets to have her life. It’s a win-win,” Travis said. She added that she feels healthier now post-transplant than before.

Fate, faith and friendship built an inseparable bond for these women. It is one that includes sharing their story in hopes of inspiring others — saving lives.

Both women are doing well after the transplant and see each other at church.

“I think I say thank you every time. If I don’t, I sure think it,” Givan said that’s how she responds when she sees Travis.

During this National Donate Life Month, advocates like Givan and Travis and organizations like the Indiana Donor Network are working towards expanding education and awareness.

According to the nonprofit, more than four million “Hoosiers are registered organ donors,” but the need for living donors is growing.

“The need is great we have anywhere between 1,000 and 1100 people here in Indiana waiting for a variety of different organs,” Corinne Osinski-Carey with the Indiana Donor Network said.

Below are several events during National Donate Life Month:

  • April 6, Donate Life Living Donor Day.
  • April 16, Cabela’s Donate Life Day in Noblesville (Autograph session with NASCAR winner and Hoosier native Ryan Newman, family-friendly activities).
  • April 16-23, Blue & Green Spirit Week.
  • April 22, National Donate Life Month Blue & Green Day.
  • April 24-30, National Pediatric Transplant Week.

Any Hoosier can sign up to become an organ donor online. To learn more about the living kidney donation program through IU Health, click here.