Three is a magic number: Katie Buchanan’s journey with organ donation
The Little Rock local and three-time kidney recipient shares her story.
Katie Buchanan’s transplant story is unique because it’s not just one story, it’s three. Buchanan received a kidney three times whose battle began when she was just five years old. A biopsy revealed a rare condition called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, in which scarring prevented his kidneys from filtering blood properly.
Dialysis kept Buchanan alive for much of a year, but eventually she had to have both kidneys removed. It was a rare and risky intervention, but necessary to avoid the risk of stroke. His first kidney transplant was from his mother, a perfect match.
Fast forward to his college years.
“Transplants don’t last forever,” Buchanan says. “During my last year, my kidney was only functioning at 20 percent.”
A family member came to her rescue. Four weeks after his second transplant, Buchanan was back in school.
An infection led to his third transplant. Ironically, the drugs used to treat this unrelated condition harmed his otherwise healthy kidney, leading to more dialysis.
“It was a dark time,” Buchanan says, crediting husband Bob Bushmiaer with providing much-needed emotional support.
In this case, the best time and the best results came from a local deceased donor. A 23-year-old who had lost his life in a car accident was a perfect match.
“I can’t explain how that phone call feels,” Buchanan says. “His mother didn’t know if he was a registered organ donor, but because he worked his way through nursing school, she knew he would want to help people.”
Sixty-four percent of eligible Arkansans are registered as organ, tissue and eye donors, but there is still a gap between need and donation. Today, there are 114,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list, and 300 of them are in Arkansas.
Every day, 22 people die while waiting for an organ that is not available in time, according to the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA), Arkansas’ largest organ and tissue recovery agency. The ARORA team is working to educate and inspire more Arkansans to sign up to be donors.
“When someone signs up to be an organ, tissue and eye donor, they have the potential to save up to eight lives through organ donation and restore the lives of hundreds through organ donation. fabrics,” said Audrey Coleman, director of communications for ARORA.
ARORA also helped Buchanan contact his donor’s mother, Laura.
“Connecting to who these people were in a real and meaningful way is a crucial healing step. Laura told me she wanted me to know how loved I was,” says Buchanan, who is now a volunteer. ARORA.
“Katie is a pleasure to work with,” says Beth Cameron, Family Aftercare Manager at ARORA. “She is dedicated to promoting donation and is ever so compassionate to any donor family she meets.”
April is National Gift of Life Month, and to honor those who have restored lives through generous giving and to encourage others to consider signing up as donors, ARORA commissioned a public art exhibit that will be exhibited in spaces across the state.
The installation was created by local artist Virmarie DePoyster with the theme “Bee a Donor”, inspired by the powerful role bees play in sustaining life and their tightly knit community. The exhibit features more than 100 bees that will be installed at UA Little Rock Windgate Art and Design Center, downtown Pleasant Ridge and Wildwood Park for the Arts.
To learn more and register to become an organ, tissue and eye donor, visit The ARORA website.