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Nurse goes the extra mile to save a life – by donating one of her own kidneys

Kirby Pickard came across a kidney donor outreach pamphlet while on shift one day at VGH back in 2015. The quick second glance that caught her eye, ended up saving the life of Monika Colmorgen.
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​Pickard first learned about the Kidney Paired Donation program through one of her off service patients on peritoneal dialysis. She recalled an interaction where she curiously asked how she could become a living kidney donor and inquired about blood type matches. The inspiration to donate never left her mind and it was serendipitous that two years later she came across Colmorgen's pamphlet looking for a donor.

Without hesitation, Pickard picked up the phone and called the number. Colmorgen answered and 14 months after they swapped details, they were a part of a 14-person paired exchange across Canada where Pickard donated her kidney anonymously and Colmorgen received another donor's kidney in return.

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"I didn't realize the massive difference it makes when someone receives a kidney from a living donor versus a deceased donor. Even the hardship of a life on dialysis is eye-opening," says Pickard.

She remembers that her parents had always instilled in her the joy of being of service to other people. "I felt so fortunate to be healthy, so thought why wouldn't I donate? It felt like the right thing to do at the time – almost spiritually."

PHSA support for living organ donors

As Pickard started her journey to become a living donor, she also transitioned from VGH to the NICU at BC Children's Hospital. The unexpected cherry on top was finding out that Provincial Health Services Authority fully supported her decision to donate. The PHSA Support for Living Organ Donor Policy provided her eight weeks of paid leave, which allowed her to focus on recovery. Pickard gratefully had a quick journey back to her normal self but is very appreciative of a supportive employer and the comfort of knowing she could take her time before returning full time back to work. 

Witnessing firsthand, the transformation of Colmorgen's journey back to health

Today, Pickard enjoys a special relationship with Colmorgen. "It was an honour to help impact the health of two people's lives. Plus, I was fortunate to see firsthand how Monika's life changed."

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                           (Pickard, Sidney the Kidney and Colmorgen)

She's witnessed Colmorgen's post-transplant transformation in health. Colmorgen was able to go back to work, resume volunteering and most importantly be a mom again. "By receiving the gift of a kidney from a living donor I was able to parent my teenage son again. Which was huge as a single mom. He's not overwhelmed with anxiety about me being sick and dying anymore," says Colmorgen. Pickard says it was magical to see how much she changed and what a kidney donation did for her.

Pickard is grateful for the team at St. Paul's Hospital who took such good care of her post-surgery and the healthcare professionals she continues to check in with yearly. Physically today, she feels on top of the world. She frequently goes for long bike rides around the UBC trails and enjoys being in the outdoors.

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"I am happier today, because I donated my kidney. I was generally a pretty happy person but my life has so much more meaning now. It's a lovely little reminder when I'm feeling low. I imagine what my kidney is doing for someone else. It's amazing to experience this feeling while I'm alive."

Living Donor Circle of Excellence Program

PHSA is a proud to be a member of the Canadian Society of Transplantation's Living Donor Circle of Excellence program. The program aims to eliminate the financial costs of living organ donation by recognizing companies whose policies support living donation. 

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