Board Member Spotlight
This month TCA would like to spotlight another one of our board members that dedicates his time, understanding and knowledge to serving TCA and the transplant community. Jason Kvam is a two-time kidney recipient, husband, and busy father to his 11-year-old son. Jason joined the TCA board in September 2022 looking for volunteer opportunities to keep his mind active and give him purpose.
Jason was diagnosed with kidney failure when he was 26 years old due to IGA Nephropathy. When the doctor delivered this news, he did not understand the impact that it would have on his life. “I didn’t even know what the kidneys did!” Jason learned quickly about the kidneys and the impact this illness has on so many people. “No one in my family has had issues with kidney disease. Thankfully, IGA Nephropathy is not hereditary.” Jason joked with his family that he was the “chosen one.” He feels extremely fortunate that his sister was able to quickly donate one of her kidneys. Unfortunately, it was only 8 years later when his body would reject the kidney and he returned to kidney failure and started dialysis. Due to the first transplant and multiple blood transfusions, his blood had built up 98% antibodies, making finding a kidney match difficult for a second transplant. After about 8 years on dialysis, his employer at the time Desert Financial Credit Union, asked if they could organize a campaign to help him find a donor. They put together a website, YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHcYQgb-qx4), and sent an email to over 300,000 members with Jason’s story and links to the media. Over 200 people expressed interest in donating, and one was a match! In June of 2020, he was fortunate to receive a kidney from an altruistic living kidney donor. She saw the video and felt inclined to help. “My family and I will forever be grateful to Desert Financial Credit Union and to my donor.”
“While my transplant has been successful, my recovery was very difficult. I spent several months in the hospital with a range of issues. My kidney is still working, but I needed to stop working. I just don’t have the strength/stamina to be able to sustain working 40 hours per week. When the doctor delivered the news that I could no longer work, it was very difficult to accept. I understood the reasoning and committed myself to putting my health and my family first.” Since the transplant, Jason has been attempting to learn chess, but is often defeated by his son. He also enjoys attending college/pro games, movies, reading, golf, and playing card/board games. His highlights are attending his 11-year-old son’s sporting events, which include football, basketball, baseball, and golf. “I love spending time with my family.”
Jason recognizes that the transplant process can be very difficult to go through, not only physically but mentally. He expressed to his social worker that since he was unable to work full-time, he intended to seek volunteer opportunities. She suggested TCA as a potential avenue that would enable him to volunteer and help the transplant community. He started volunteering and then joined the board. “They’ve put up with me so far,” joked Jason.
He believes TCA provides valuable services that are needed and not provided through medical staff or insurance providers. “TCA can assist with temporary financial assistance, and we organize support groups where people can talk with others that have been through the experience and truly understand. Our mentor program will also partner a patient with someone that has been through the process and can provide one-on-one support and answer questions for him or her. These are meaningful services, and we would like to add more in the future.” Jason feels it is important to offer services to patients when and where they need them.
Also, there is incredible strength in sharing your story. Simply talking about the process and the impact donation has will bring joy and lead to further discussion about donation. If you are a recipient or a donor, tell your story. My campaign led to multiple donations. “I learned that a few of the people that were interested in donating to me but weren’t a match went through with donating to another patient,” Jason said. “They simply weren’t aware of the need and the impact before seeing my story and wanting to help. That blew me away!”
TCA is fortunate to have Jason Kvam on our board!