The Gift Of Life

April is national Donate Life Month, a time to recognize organ donors and recipients, those still waiting for an organ donation and the healthcare heroes who make it all happen. Mike and Kelly Richards, both caregivers at San Juan Regional Medical Center, know about this all too well after going through their own organ donation journey. 

Mike, Physician Concierge in Medical Staff Services, had quintuple bypass surgery in 2021. Then, just a month later, while still extremely medically fragile, he contracted COVID. He spent four weeks on the Medical Unit. He made it out of the hospital, but not without complications. His kidney function, already compromised due to diabetes, started dropping rapidly. 

“He was close to his body shutting down, but he just kept going. He was remodeling our bathroom at the time,” Mike’s wife Kelly, a Reimbursement Specialist in the Clinic Billing Office, said. 

“I didn’t realize how sick I was,” Mike said.

National Kidney Foundation guidelines recommend dialysis when kidney function drops to 15% or less. Mike’s glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was at 8. Their youngest son, Jace, stepped in and said he wanted to donate his kidney. Fortunately, he was a perfect match. The family went to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for the surgery, which took place on October 9, 2023. As caregiver, Kelly took six weeks off work. Mike’s recovery took 12 weeks. Just four weeks after donating a kidney, Jace was back in the gym. 

“Going through a kidney transplant is one thing, but being the donor, that person is giving a gift of life,” Mike said. 

Mike and Kelly are grateful for all the help and support they had throughout the process. One of Mike’s caregivers at San Juan Health Partners Internal Medicine helped him get assistance from San Juan Medical Foundation’s Riley Men’s Health Fund. He also learned a lot about advocating for his own medical needs. 

“You have to be an advocate for yourself. Don’t give up, you have to keep going. It’s worth it, it will give you a much better quality of life,” he said. 

Since his transplant, Mike’s kidney numbers have completely turned around. He considers it a success and is grateful for his new life. 

“I have so much more energy,” Mike said. “I’m living proof you can do it.”

Mike and Kelly understand firsthand what a precious gift organ donation is. They encourage everyone to consider becoming a donor and sharing those wishes with family. To register to become an organ donor, visit registerme.org. 





1 Comment(s) so far | Skip to comment form

Mike Richards on April 2, 2024 at 2:06 PM

Thankyou SJRMC for letting me tell my organ donation story. If anyone wants to know more or what to expect to take this life saving journey, please contact me at mrichards@sjrmc.net. And a special thanks to my leadership team and co-workers for working with me. It made a huge difference in my stress level and recovery, to know they had my back. Mike Richards




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