UTMC Hosting April 3 Flag-raising Ceremony in Honor of National Donate Life Month

April 1, 2024 | News, UToday, Alumni, UTMC
By Tyrel Linkhorn

The University of Toledo Medical Center, in partnership with Life Connection of Ohio, will honor National Donate Life Month with a flag-raising ceremony Wednesday, April 3.

The event will begin at 1 p.m. outside the hospital’s main entrance and feature a kidney transplant recipient and a living kidney donor who work at UTMC.

For more than 20 years, National Donate Life Month has served to raise awareness of organ donation, honor those who have saved lives through organ donation and to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.

UTMC, northwest Ohio’s only organ transplant center, performed a record 203 kidney transplants in 2023 and has completed more than 700 transplants since 2020.

Raising the flag this year will be Megan Charette, a clinical research nurse in the Department of Urology and Transplantation who in 2022 donated a kidney to her husband, and Chandler Smith, a surgical intensive care unit nurse at UTMC who received a life-saving transplant from a living donor in 2023.

“Supporting organ donation is particularity important to me, knowing how I felt being a living donor. I want to make sure everybody in the community knows we value the decision they made and the impact it has on our program and on the recipient,” Charette said. “You saved a life, but you are also moving research forward because you did that.”

Charette’s seemingly healthy then-fiance, Brent, had been complaining of a persistent headache in 2021. After getting lab work done, he learned his kidney function was rapidly deteriorating as result of an autoimmune disorder.

While on dialysis, Brent Charette lost nearly 50 pounds and was in desperate need of a transplant.

“I was watching him die,” she said. “Seeing someone you love living with chronic illness — I would have done anything.”

The Charettes investigated several transplant programs and were able to begin the process at UTMC before even hearing back from anywhere else.

Megan Charette, who quit her job as a per-diem nurse to care for Brent, was prepared to donate a kidney to a stranger if it would help start a donation chain that would ultimately help her husband.

In the end, however, testing at UTMC revealed she was a perfect match. They underwent surgery together in May 2022.

“He did fantastic,” she said. “Within days he was walking up and down the stairs. You’d never guess he was sick a couple days before. He looked great almost immediately.”

The experience at UTMC so inspired her that she chose to come to work there, first as an operating room nurse and later as a researcher with the transplantation program — working under the same surgeon who performed Brent’s transplant.

There are currently more than 100,000 Americans in need of an organ transplant. The good news is that more transplants than ever are being done.

Data from the United Network for Organ Sharing show a record 46,630 transplants were performed last year, including more than 27,000 kidney transplants.

Among those was Smith, who was born with an inherited genetic condition that affects the small blood vessels in his kidneys.

He knew he would likely need a transplant one day, and that time came in early 2022, when he was working as a traveling nurse in Columbus.

Though the plan had been for his father to donate a kidney, he was unable to do so, sending Smith on a quest to find another donor.

He moved back to his hometown of Toledo to be nearer to family and got a job at UTMC. As he was preparing to start the process of getting listed at UTMC, a suitable living donor match came through and he underwent a successful transplant at Ohio State, where he had previously been listed.

His ordeal, he said, has made him a passionate advocate for living organ donation.

“There’s just not enough education out there about people donating kidneys and living long happy lives,” he said. “There’s a huge need for organ donation after death but being a living donor recipient is a great option and I want people to know the difference they can make.”

Now healthy, Smith is grateful to be back taking care of patients.

“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “That was a huge motivator for me. It’s been very exciting working at UTMC, working at a hospital where we transplant so many kidneys. I definitely feel very personally connected to that, and at the end of the day I think the transplant team does an amazing job making sure each patient is taken care of.”

For more information on organ, eye and tissue donation or to register as a donor, visit Life Connection of Ohio’s website.


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