VA Pittsburgh Employee Donates Kidney to Coworker’s Spouse

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VA Pittsburgh employee Kathi Dahl donated one of her kidneys to a coworker’s spouse.

“While many say it is a great gift to give to someone, I say the gift is truly mine. It is my opportunity to help someone and see the positive outcome from doing so,” Dahl said.

People across the country give their coworkers and families gifts all the time. From holiday exchanges to birthdays and baby showers, gift-giving is part of our culture.

But, how often do coworkers donate “life” to the husband of a coworker? For one VA employee, the choice of donating a kidney was a simple one.

“Dawna (Wright-Thompson) told me her husband was on a donor list,” Glenshaw resident Kathi Dahl said. “I just had a strong pull to do something and started researching to see if being a donor was something I could do.”

That was in January. On June 16, Dahl’s left kidney was transplanted into Sam Thompson at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH). Today, Dahl said she is doing “really good” but taking it easy.

Dahl, 50, a registered nurse, has worked at VA Pittsburgh for more than 20 years, with the majority of her time now spent helping employees as President of the American Federation of Government Employees Union Local 2028.

Wright-Thompson, a fellow union officer and nurse, grew close to Dahl as they collaborated for union work, but she never considered Dahl a potential donor for her husband.

“I told Kathi about my husband being on dialysis, and we talked about his being on a donor list while we were at union events,” Wright-Thompson said. “But Sam and I knew nothing about what she was up to; we never asked her about being a donor.”

But Wright-Thompson soon found herself giving Dahl contact information for AGH’s transplant coordinator.

“I spent a full day at the hospital for testing and met with social workers and doctors. We went over the pluses and minuses, and I was still definitely interested.” Dahl said. “They talked about ‘paired matching’ if I wasn’t a good donor for Sam, and I agreed.”

But by happy chance, Dahl was a match and Thompson, 64, is recovering nicely at his East Liberty home with his wife close by.

“While many say it is a great gift to give to someone, I say the gift is truly mine. It is my opportunity to help someone and see the positive outcome from doing so,” Dahl said.

Media interested in covering this story should contact Sheila Tunney at 412-360-1479 or sheila.tunney(at)va(dot)gov for more information.

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Sheila Tunney
Veterans Health Administration
+1 4123601479
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Shelley Nulph

412822-3536
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