By Jack Rubinger

A thousand exclamation marks can barely contain the enthusiasm, excitement and energy Liz Campbell feels since she’s gotten a new kidney, courtesy of Emily Lighthipe, who read The Southeast Examiner article (November 2017) about the Kids of Heart 30th anniversary and Campbell’s plea for a kidney angel. Campbell has owned the Hawthorne toy store for many years.

Liz Campbell and Emily Lighthipe

The two share a lot. Both are women. Both live in Portland. Both have children. What they share goes way beyond the norm. Lighthipe didn’t know Campbell personally, but had been to the Kids at Heart store often. She had been thinking about donating a kidney for awhile but never got around to doing anything about it. She’s had personal inspiration, too.

Lighthipe’s husband’s cousin donated a kidney to a cousin 18 years ago and they both thrived after the transplant and her mother was born with only one functioning kidney and has had no problems.

What is like to donate a kidney?

“I have an added sense of richness and purpose to my life knowing that I was able to help Liz by giving her one of my kidneys,” she said. “Even though I am the donor, I feel I have received much more than I gave – the chance to help a woman in my community to have a better quality of life because she no longer has to go from one dialysis treatment to the next.”

The screening process took about 4 months. The living donor transplant team at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), including Doctor David Scott, carefully vetted and screened Lighthipe first, to make sure she was a candidate to donate, and second, to make sure she and Campbell were a compatible match.

“Liz’s story definitely spoke to me. I had a strong feeling the universe was telling me, ‘your time is now!’ We met up several times before the transplant to get to know each other better,” said Lighthipe. “Liz even had dinner with my husband and kids because it was important to me they get to meet her. By the end of the night, my 12 year old son said, ‘Mom, I’m so glad you’re doing this!’ and my 7 year old daughter said, ‘Make sure to give Liz your best kidney!’”

She was not only educated about the surgery process, but also the psychosocial, nutritional and pharmaceutical aspects. They even included her husband and children in the process. The transplant coordinators are a specialized group of nurse practitioners who prepared her for anything and everything that could possibly happen.

After the surgery she was pretty sore, but that wore off after about a week and her husband Josh and mother Kathy were wonderful nurses.

“I am very lucky to have such wonderful friends and church community who provided meals, childcare and extra love. I returned to work at seven weeks post-op because I have a physical job but donors with desk jobs can return to work as soon as three weeks,” she said.

Lighthipe has already begun biking and running and training for a triathlon in June. “I want everyone to know that being a living kidney donor is  a very feasible thing. You don’t have to be a superhero to qualify.”

The women have a strong bond. They talk to each other at least once a week and have gotten together several times including a Donate Life Northwest reunion event. Campbell has inspired Lighthipe to become a mentor to other donors and their families through Donate Life Northwest and to become an advocate for living donations.

The legacy Liz Campbell has created for kids and families continues at Kids At Heart toys and the community they’ve helped foster continues to grow throughout the Pacific Northwest.