INDIANAPOLIS — With double the donation, brings double the hope. Data shows it is extremely rare for one person to donate two different organs to two different people as a living donor. One of those people lives right here in central Indiana.
“Do good. Feel good. Repeat.” Stephanie Kroot said that's her life motto. She added, “I love helping people. It feels good to help people. I don’t understand why more people don’t because it feels so good.”
The Greenwood mom of four lives a life of just that. After 9/11, she enlisted in the Navy Reserves leaving her job as a police officer. Today, she is a critical care nurse in a COVID-19 ICU at Johnson Memorial Hospital.
“The people that were lost during that time, that we’re still losing, it is a good feeling to know that there are people that are getting their lives back through organ donation,” Kroot said.
She said she began her process in January of 2019 when she decided to donate her kidney. But it didn't stop there.
"At the time, I wanted to donate a kidney and liver, but that's not a thing so they made me wait," Kroot said.
Earlier this year, she donated the right section of her liver. In 2019, she donated her right kidney. Both times to two women she never met. Weeks after and even a year later, both donor and recipients are doing well.
“It was really emotional,” Kroot said of meeting the woman who received her kidney earlier this month.
“To be able to know that something that I just had extra of and could give away, it made that big of an impact.”
Both donations were done through IU Health, and Stephanie is their first living double donor.
“It’s pretty rare,” Dr. Chandrashekhar Kubal, IU Health Surgical Director of the Adult Liver Transplant Program said. He was Stephanie’s liver transplant surgeon. Nationally, it is thought about 50 or so Americans have done what Stephanie just did.
“It is rare, but maybe that’s because people don’t know or you’ll have people say, "Oh my doctor said I can’t do that."" Kroot said.
Dr. Kubal continued, “First time I thought about sequential living organ donation, I was hesitant.”
Kubal said donors undergo intense health screenings and in Stephanie's case, it was even more important because of her previous donation.
“We really didn’t have any concerns about her health or fitness and therefore we thought this was a suitable donor,” Kubal said of Stephanie.
“I was watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy, January of 2019. It was the domino surgery where they did a six pair donation for kidney transplants and I thought about it and I said, "Okay, there's nothing holding me back,"" Kroot said.
While part of her why includes Shonda Rhimes and the cast of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, the thought of organ donation was long on Stephanie’s mind. The first time was 20 or so years ago when when her sister had kidney stones and then again, more recently, when her mother needed a bone marrow transplant.
“They [organ donors] are true heroes. I admire their courage having the motive to help somebody. They endure physical pain,” Kubal said.
“I want all those people, the over 113,000 people that are waiting for organs to have hope because there are many people like me out there who want to donate who just need the education and maybe the inspiration,” Kroot added.
More than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ right now. According to Donate Life Indiana, more than four million Hoosiers are signed up to be organ donors.
Deceased donation is not the only way to donate, though, like in Stephanie’s case where she is a living donor.
“So for instance, for liver transplantation, there are about 14,000 patients waiting currently, and every year we have about seven to eight-thousand deceased donors. There is a significant gap between demand and supply,” Kubal said. “Through living donation, we can try to bridge the gap. It's not going to be in a big way where there will be no patient on the wait list, but we can address some gaps."
This past July, the state’s first living donor liver transplant in 20 years was done at IU Health and eight living donor transplants have happened since then.
Both IU Health and Ascension St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis, have transplant centers.
To sign up to be an organ donor, click here.
To learn more about IU Health’s organ donation program and to become a donor, click here.