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Jaclyn with her Mother Susie Starr

My Mom Helped Me Survive A Kidney Transplant: An Unexpected Journey

May 30, 2024

Jaclyn Starr kidney transplant recipient
Jaclyn Starr kidney transplant recipient
Over 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. During February American Mothers, Inc. is encouraging healthy moms to register to donate their organs at

Register as an organ donor! You might save the life of someone like Jaclyn Starr who is sharing her story with us today. Thank you, Jaclyn! Mothers all over the country who are grateful you are feeling better and are praying for your continued health. Please hug your brother tightly from all of us!

Here is Jaclyn’s story:

Being a 24-year-old full-time student and full-time worker, I would never in my wildest dreams think something was wrong with me. I had been pretty healthy my entire life, got sick every now and then, but who doesn’t?

It was 2 days after New Years in 2012, I went to urgent care for a toe fungus, yes a toe fungus. Where they determined my blood pressure was 171/110 (normal is 120/80). I had no idea what could be wrong, I felt normal. The doctor said I needed to figure something out, that something more serious was going on. The next day I went and had some blood work done. I never thought anything of it. Nothing could happen to me, why would it? Two days later I got a callback …she said: “Something is seriously wrong with your kidneys..”

I didn’t even understand what she was saying to me. I went and told my mom and she said we should go to the emergency room right now. I remember going in the backyard, and I just started crying, and thinking “What did I do to deserve this?” We drove to the hospital, and they decided to admit me. They asked me 100 different questions. “Do you do drugs?’ “Have you been to certain countries?” “Do you drink any weird teas?” Of course, all my answers were no. One of them even asked, “What did you do to mess up your kidneys?” I had to have an ultrasound done on my kidneys; they didn’t look well, so the doctors decided to do a biopsy.

I remember lying in bed on the first night in the hospital and just having a complete calm over me. For some reaso, I knew everything would be ok. I was always the strong one, from when I was born. I always had a rough exterior, even if that wasn’t how I felt inside. I had to take all that knowledge and not show any fear to anyone, even though I wasn’t fearful. I’ve always been one to believe that everything happens for a reason, no matter how good or how bad, it’s there to challenge us, make us better humans, make us fight harder, make us live our lives to our full potential.

The results came back….my kidneys were only functioning at 6%!! Out of 100%! How could this be? I felt fine. I think everyone around me was shocked, I looked normal. One of the doctors that came into my room actually said to me “you don’t look like you’re in renal failure…where’s the sick patient?” I needed a blood transfusion, I was near death and I didn’t even know it. No symptoms whatsoever.

They needed to start me on dialysis immediately. They normally start people on dialysis when their kidneys are functioning at 15%. Within one week of being diagnosed, I was put on a machine that acted like my kidneys. Dialysis is exhausting, depressing, and frustrating. Every day I would see people in there, just looking like they wanted to die. I didn’t want to be that person, I never thought that. I believe I had been given a second chance at life. I was meant to be here. I was released from the hospital, after a week and one day of being there. They put me on a special diet. I could only drink 32 oz of water a day, limit my phosphorus, limit my salt, limit my potassium. Every food has every one of those in it.

Jaclyn with her Mother Susie Starr
Jaclyn with her Mother Susie Starr

My mom helped me the most, she cooked for me, she was there for me through all of it, and she took me to dialysis. She has always been my backbone, and I’ve always looked up to her, every advice I needed I asked my mom.

I decided I wanted to do the nocturnal dialysis. I would go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:00 pm to 3:00 am. It was better for my body, 8 hours of dialysis means a slower process, and it wouldn’t be so hard on my heart or anything else.

I tried to make people laugh while I was in dialysis, most of the patients were older than me, and I thought if all else failed I could at least brighten their day just a little bit. And I will never forget the smell of the dialysis center, it was vinegar mixed with cleaning supplies. It smelled awful, I would go home smelling like it, and I would have to take a shower before I got into bed. The chairs are very uncomfortable to sleep in, so I got a twin mattress pad to lie on the chair, and I brought my pillow, and blankets (it was freezing in there).

I spent my 25th birthday in dialysis. I picture it being one of the worse places on Earth, even though it was saving my life, it exhausted me. I didn’t know how people older than me got through it. I was a “star” patient. I did everything by the book, everything they told me not to eat, I didn’t. I tried my best to stay healthy, even though toxins were building up in my body. I still wanted to work, and do normal things a 25-year-old would do. I tried going out, having fun with my friends, it just was different, and I would be their designated driver, instead of drinking with them.

In all this time, I wanted someone to talk to, someone to ask questions. A person my age, on how to really understand what was happening, and there wasn’t much, not in my state. I also really wanted support for my family, especially my mom; she didn’t have anyone to talk to. There aren’t support groups here for parents having a kid with end-stage renal failure. She needed someone to talk to.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my oldest brother was thinking about donating me his kidney. He is 17 years older than me, and we haven’t lived in the same state for 22 years. And by that March, he was already doing work up to donate. We were a really good match, more so than a lot of other siblings, and he’s my half-brother. I joke around with him, saying “I’m more like you than you think!” He normally just laughs and says no. He is a good person, and most definitely my angel. I remember when he called me and said, “When do you want to do this?”

November 15, or November 28?” I let him decide of course, and he chose the 28th. I was incredibly happy, I didn’t want to be on dialysis anymore. I wanted to live my normal life. So on November 28, 2012, I received my life-saving organ. I felt better almost instantly. It was weird feeling the sensation to have to pee again. I was going to be my normal self. In all of this time, I knew I wanted to make a difference, that this did happen for a reason, and I want to make something amazing out of all this.

People need to take precautions, get blood work done, before it’s too late. I’m not planning on making a difference, I will make a difference. I believe I’m here to help someone else, even if it’s just to make them realize, that life isn’t that bad, and that it’s what you make of it. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m thankful that all of this happened to me, I’m a better person. I feel I have a purpose now, but I want people to realize it before something drastic happens to them.

Jaclyn with her brotherMy brother will always be my hero, no matter what. He is someone I can always count on. He saved my life. And there is no way I can ever repay him.
Written by guest blogger Jaclyn Star: Jaclyn is a kidney transplant recipient who advocates for organ donation. She works full time and she will graduate this year with her BBA from the University of New Mexico. She lives in New Mexico with her fiancé Matt and her chocolate lab Matalyn.”