A Gift of a Lifetime
Live organ donation saves a life.
Living with the anxiety of uncertain health for years, the Barrett family was ready to share their story in early 2018. Ainsleigh Barrett posted the story on Facebook of her husband’s 15-year battle with a degenerative kidney disease called Primary Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis.
Her post boldly asked for a living kidney donor to be sent their way, so Jason could avoid dialysis and enjoy a healthy life with Ainsleigh and their young children, Connor and Avery.
Robert Sharp, who knew of his neighbors four doors down through an association with Cub Scouts, read the post. They had known each other only a few years since Robert moved to the Atlanta area from Charlottesville, Va. Yet, Robert couldn’t shake Jason’s story.
“She put out a call for folks to consider the living donation process,” Robert says. “There was something about it that just connected with me. The more I thought, the more it occurred to me that this would be a part of him for the rest of his life.”
Unbeknownst to the Barretts, Robert began researching the long process of kidney donation.
“My wife, Lynda, could see that I was committed to and felt called to do this,” Robert says. “We figured out the logistics to make it work.”
About one-third of transplanted kidneys are from living donors. The average wait for a transplant is three to five years. The process to determine compatibility was extensive.
“They run every test on you can imagine,” says Robert, a 19-year State Farm® employee. “They want to be sure it’s going to be a good match.”
About four months into the process, Robert was still proving to be a match. It was finally time to share exciting news with the Barretts as Jason neared Stage 5 kidney failure.
Nearly a year to the day of Ainsleigh’s post, Jason and Robert were getting ready for surgery at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.
“It’s humbling and incredible at the same time,” Robert says. “We have the medical technology to take a living organ from someone and put it into another human being and it begins to work immediately.”
Robert and Jason both work in underwriting at different insurance companies.
“Robert and I share quite a bit in a common, and I am truly blessed to know him,” says Jason. “The admirable thing about Robert is that even if I’d never met him and he saw my story, I truly believe he still would’ve donated.”
More than two months since the donation, Robert and Jason are doing fine. What’s more, Robert says the process was educational for him as he’s discovered many misconceptions about kidney donation.
He says there have been no drastic changes to his lifestyle.
“The only significant change I’ve had to make is I can’t take ibuprofen,” he says. “I had to switch to acetaminophen for minor pain relief.”
Robert encourages others to learn more about the option of live kidney donation. “By choosing to be an organ donor on your license or donating blood, you can help others struggling with medical needs,” he says.
“I will occasionally have a phantom pain in my left side where they took the kidney. Beyond that, I feel no different today than I did the day before the surgery.”
And, Jason continues to do well.
“We were sitting around about a week later and Jason said he felt better now than he could ever remember feeling,” Robert says. “When you’re in the situation he was in, you don’t remember what normal or good felt like.
“It was such a good thing to be a part of.”