AUSTIN, Texas - A Central Texas veteran who saved lives while serving overseas is now saving lives here at home by donating one of his kidneys.
"There's so many things that we do, especially as veterans - the way I saw it was, man, this was like the least dangerous thing I've ever done to save a life,” said Johnathan Wayne Taylor.
Taylor served two tours in Afghanistan after 9-11 as an Army combat medic. His job was to save lives, so it seems donating one of his kidneys, which doctors say for most healthy people is essentially a spare part, is an extension of that.
"If I can go through a process that's admittedly not a whole lot of fun, but, it's not that bad," said Taylor. "And, if I can go through this process and either save their lives or really at the bare minimum radically improve it, for something I am carrying around for just such an emergency, why not do it?"
The 45-year-old contacted St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, which has the only kidney transplant center in the Austin metro area, and let them know he wanted to help.
"I said, hey I'm happy to give to anybody that has a need, anybody at all," Taylor said. "But, if there was a way to give it to a veteran, I'd love to do that."
Working with the National Kidney Registry, which connects people who need a kidney with people who want to donate one, they identified a veteran in need at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, Taylor wasn’t a match for him. But, that wasn’t the end of the road, thanks to what’s called a kidney swap.
On October 21st, Dr. Michelle McDonald, the director of the St. David’s North Austin Medical Center Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program, removed one of Taylor’s kidneys, making it their first national exchange.
“So, Jonathan's kidney went to a recipient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona," said Dr. McDonald. "And, because of that, this man, this Vietnam veteran at Walter Reed Hospital gets a living donor voucher - which sounds pretty crazy, and it is. So, when he's ready and the institution's ready, they will redeem it and he will get a living donor kidney because of Jonathan, which is just amazing."
As for Taylor’s Arizona recipient, he said, “I don't know who I gave my kidney to. But, they said he's doing phenomenal, that it took well. So, that was really great to hear."
Dr. McDonald said Walter Reed Medical Center is now in the process of evaluating living kidney donor offers for the veteran in D.C. "I was told he'll likely have his transplant within the next month or so, which is great,” she said.
In the end, Taylor’s kidney will have saved two lives: the man he gave his to and the veteran in D.C. who will eventually get a kidney from another living donor.
"All we have is each other," Taylor said. "And, this is a great way to take care of somebody, and like I said, radically impact and radically improve their lives.”
To learn more about living kidney donation, click here for St. David’s North Austin and click here for the National Kidney Registry or call the living donor coordinator at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, Erin Strong, at 512-901-2263.