Despite being six years apart in age, Barb Goeckner and her sister Sue always had a tight bond. “We were always very close—like twins,” Barb says. “We finished each other’s sentences.” So, when Sue began experiencing kidney issues at age 22 and needed a transplant, Barb knew she wanted to help. “Along the way, I always said that I wanted to donate,” she says.
Unfortunately, Barb wasn’t a match for her sister; however, 30 years after first becoming ill and on her fourth kidney transplant, Sue asked Barb if she was interested in participating in a paired kidney exchange of three recipients and three donors. Barb and Sue traveled to Mayo Clinic, where they inevitably bumped into the other families involved in the paired exchange. “We became friends immediately,” Barb says. “We’re still all in connection with the paired exchange group.”
Sadly, Sue passed away on Christmas Eve 2020 from COVID-19, and Barb’s kidney recipient developed histoplasmosis and also passed away. But Barb is grateful for the extra years that kidney donation afforded her with her sister, and wouldn’t hesitate to donate a kidney again if she could. “It’s very easy to do, especially when you see somebody you love who is so sick,” she says. “As a living donor, I tell people all the time that it was the greatest gift I’ve been allowed to give. And it was a gift to me to be able to do it.”
Now, Barb continues to advocate for organ and tissue donation as a Versiti volunteer. “I enjoy it so much, and it’s been such a great part of my life to give back,” she says. “You meet so many people with terrific stories. It’s been so wonderful to be a part of it.” She also encourages others to register as organ and tissue donors and consider becoming a living donor.
“It’s not just simply being able to give that kidney, but becoming part of something so much bigger,” she says. “It’s an amazing gift. I felt like it was a gift to me, to be able to give. I wish I had 20 kidneys so I could do it again and again.”
Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
Approximately 113,000 men, women, and children are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. One organ donor has the power to save up to eight lives and change the outcomes of someone’s world forever by giving them a second chance. Additionally, tissue donation can save and improve the lives of up to 75 people with their gifts. You can make a huge impact by registering as an organ and tissue donor.
Learn more about organ and tissue donation, or register as a donor at https://donatelifewisconsin.org.