South Shore Nurse Gives the Gift of Life with Kidney Donation

Maddie Gomes, a Registered Nurse at South Shore Health Express, looks like a typical 20-something professional. She works full-time, and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She exercises often and is always on the go. But she’s achieved something that very few young people have—she is a living kidney donor.

It began when a friend told Maddie his story about receiving a kidney from a total stranger that had saved his life—a kind of donation called the Good Samaritan donation by the National Kidney Registry. Gomes was intrigued.

“I didn’t know you could randomly donate to anyone. I was really inspired,” Gomes says.

There is a real need for kidney donations nationwide.

According to Donate Life America, there are approximately 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting a donor kidney from either a living or deceased donor.

Finding a match from a deceased donor can take years, and during that time patients often get dialysis treatment to stay alive. Dialysis is a time-consuming treatment that decreases a patient’s quality of life, and does only 10-15 percent of the work a healthy, functioning kidney can do. 

“I was researching donation, and I decided to sign up on the National Kidney Registry website to see if I’d qualify to donate,” Gomes says.

After taking a brief medical survey, the organization asked Maddie to collect her urine for 24 hours, and she got some lab work done here on the South Shore. After clearing those hurdles, she went to Washington, DC for a thorough physical examination at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. A psychiatrist also evaluated her state of mind to ensure she wasn’t being pressured to make the donation. Maddie passed the tests, and was told she’d be contacted if there was a match.

“I really felt like I needed to do this. I don’t know what it was in me, but I just had a strong feeling that somebody out there needs my kidney, and I don’t need it. I’m not afraid, so I’m going to do it.”

After waiting six months, Maddie got the call. There was a patient in California who needed her kidney. She packed her bags and headed to Washington, accompanied by her mother and little sister, to make her donation.

Maddie Gomes in the hospital as she prepares for kidney donation
Maddie Gomes, RN, as she prepared to donate her kidney

On August 14, 2018, Maddie underwent a four-hour operation to remove her right kidney. Doctors did the surgery laparoscopically, which means they used a series of small incisions to remove her kidney. 

“These surgeons, nurses, doctors and anesthesiologists do it like it’s nothing. They take out organs like it’s buttering toast,” Maddie says with a laugh. “People have laparoscopic surgery every day—to have their appendix out, or their gallbladder. If you can do it and save a life, why not?”

Maddie was walking around the unit the same evening of her surgery. After just a few days in the hospital, Maddie was back at the hotel with her family, enjoying some sunbathing before heading back to her busy life on the South Shore.

Now, about nine months after her donation, Maddie feels no adverse effects from her life-saving donation. The only differences she notices are the six small scars from the surgeon’s incision and weighing five pounds less—about the weight of her donated kidney. 

She recently had a six-month checkup with her primary care provider, and will travel back to Washington in August for a one-year physical to confirm that she’s in good health. She’s also an advocate for kidney donation, meeting with other South Shore residents who are considering becoming a living kidney donor.

While Maddie doesn’t know who received her kidney, she’s glad she was able to help someone like her friend to live a healthier life, and hopes she inspires others to become living donors.

“Look at the statistics. Look at how many people are on dialysis or need kidneys. We have two kidneys. Why keep the other one?”

To learn more about kidney donation, visit Donate Life America or the National Kidney Registry