Jeff Mitchell, left, and Mary Holland share a laugh during their first meeting at Holland received a kidney donated by Mitchell. Both will be in attendance at a Tuesday event in Norfolk to celebrate kidney donors, and Mitchell will be one of the speakers.
Jeff Mitchell, left, and Mary Holland share a laugh during their first meeting at Holland received a kidney donated by Mitchell. Both will be in attendance at a Tuesday event in Norfolk to celebrate kidney donors, and Mitchell will be one of the speakers.

Archived Story

Kidney donor to speak at event

Published 9:55pm Friday, April 5, 2013

A Norfolk man who works in Suffolk will reflect on what it was like to donate his kidney during a speech at a living donor kidney celebration in Norfolk next week.

Jeff Mitchell, who works at the TowneBank Member Service Center in Harbour View, is one of the scheduled speakers at the Sentara event, which will honor more than 300 living kidney donors from the last 10 years. It will be held at Eastern Virginia Medical School on Tuesday.

Mitchell, who is in his 40s, decided several years ago to give one of his kidneys to someone he didn’t even know.

“I didn’t know anybody that had kidney disease, but I had read a lot about it in the paper,” Mitchell said. “It kind of piqued my interest. It was something I could do to help somebody out.”

Mitchell contacted the Norfolk transplant center and started a several-months process of physical and mental exams. He had been matched with a recipient and was on one of his last appointments when a doctor finally noticed a blood pressure medication he was on.

“He said, ‘You can’t do this,” Mitchell said. “It was a very big blow to me.”

Mitchell hit the gym, got his blood pressure under control and was able to stop taking the medication. In fall 2010, he got the go-ahead from his doctor to start the process again.

“I really thought after going through all this, I would get over my phobia of needles,” Mitchell said. “It didn’t work.”

Soon, he got word he had been matched with another recipient. The surgery took place April 19, 2011.

“The toughest part of surgery was the IV,” he joked.

Both he and the recipient signed an agreement they wouldn’t try to figure out who the other was for at least a year. When the year was almost up, Mitchell contacted the transplant center and found out he had a thank-you card waiting for him.

The card was from Mary Holland, an Isle of Wight County woman in her 50s who had kidney failure from diabetes and high blood pressure. She had been on dialysis since 2007, when her doctors estimated her kidney function at 12 percent.

“I was so excited I was going to get a kidney,” Holland said. Her husband, children, grandchildren and siblings shared her excitement.

Holland said she wanted to contact her donor because of his altruistic deed.

“That’s a big deal, giving up your organ,” she said. “I just wanted to meet the person that made all this possible for me.”

The pair met in February and now talks on the phone about once a week.

“I’m excited to hear Jeff speak,” Holland said. “He’s a nice person.”

For more information on organ donation, visit www.organdonor.gov.

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