Jessica Conklin: living kidney donor

Karen HandelmanDonation Stories

My quick recovery probably had something to do with my preparation.

Jessica joined LaKishia and JePahl
White as Donate Life float participants in the 2014 Rose Parade

Sacramento, CA — Jessica Conklin spent many years watching her mother suffer from chronic kidney disease. When she was 20, she tried donating her kidney but found she was not a match. “This devastating news made me feel hopeless as my mom grew weaker,” she recalled.

By chance, a nurse mentioned the paired exchange program to Jessica after hearing of her inability to donate directly. She referred Jessica to the UC Davis Paired Exchange program which would allow her to donate her kidney to someone who, like Jessica’s mom, had a willing but incompatible donor. Jessica’s mother would in turn receive a kidney from a donor who, like Jessica, was incompatible with their desired recipient.

Jessica immediately went online and completed the forms. A program coordinator contacted her 24 hours later, and the search for her mother’s new kidney began. In the meantime, Jessica underwent an extensive battery of tests to make sure she could participate in the program.

Two months after the search began, the program coordinator called Jessica with good news: a kidney donor had been matched to her mother, and a patient who would receive Jessica’s kidney was also identified. On September 27, 2010, Jessica donated her kidney to JePahl White. Jessica’s mother received her kidney the following day.

“I met JePahl two months after surgery and have had a wonderful friendship with him and his family,” Jessica acknowledged. “It truly brings people together.”

“My quick recovery probably had something to do with my preparation,” recalled Jessica. “I ran a lot outdoors. It kept my mental strength and physical awareness balanced. I also spoke with my parents frequently and did a lot of online research about the procedure.”

Since donating her kidney, Jessica successfully finished a number of half-marathons, two Tough Mudders, and the California International Marathon. “My donation experience has not slowed me down,” she said. “I am a living testament that you can live a normal life after donating a kidney.”

“This experience has changed my life completely. I have a healthy mother who is stronger and better because of this program. I’m eternally grateful.”