Canadian woman gives kidney to total stranger and calls for more donor support

When Sandra Jupp offered her kidney for donation, she had no idea it would eventually be given to a stranger.

“My elementary school friend’s husband needed one,” she told Daily Hive. “As a mother with two kids, I could sympathize with [the situation].”

Jupp decided to donate her kidney and began the process. “I went on the waitlist, and within a few weeks, they found a match,” she said. “It happened pretty quick.”

When someone chooses to donate their kidney, they undergo three tests, each aimed at assessing the donor’s health: blood type, crossmatch, and HLA testing.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the earlier a transplant is received, the better one’s long-term health. In a fortunate turn of events, Jupp’s friend found a match sooner rather than later.

But Jupp — awaiting the test results — was still committed to donating her kidney.

“I was excited to [donate my kidney],” she said.

In BC, approximately 400 individuals are on organ waiting lists, with 80% of them awaiting a kidney, according to the Kidney Foundation of Canada. In 2023, out of the 284 kidney transplants performed, 65 were from living donors like Jupp.

Jupp went through with it — undergoing donor nephrectomy (re: surgery).

She said the whole experience was locked in and that there were no side effects after her recovery.

“I feel like a different person,” she shared with Daily Hive. “I actually feel healthier.”

The donation process itself is anonymous — so unless Jupp’s kidney recipient wants to know that she donated her organ within a year of the procedure, they will never know.

To Jupp, that’s not what this was about anyway; she said just being able to give her organ to someone who needed it was satisfying enough.

“It makes me emotional and just so happy knowing I was able to prolong somebody’s life,” she said.

Lack of financial support

The recovery after the procedure took about six weeks, but Jupp’s work with organ donation wasn’t done.

What began as a way to give to a friend has become a commitment to advocacy, particularly for financial support during recovery.

Jupp says she was lucky — as an employee with the BC government, she was paid the full six weeks she took to recover from surgery.

Unfortunately, most employees in the private sector don’t have that type of support if they were to donate organs. A major part of donor expenses includes lost wages during recovery after surgery.

“One of the biggest barriers at first was wondering if I could afford it,” she said. “Having that financial burden removed was a huge weight lifted.”

So,  Jupp has begun advocating for Circle of Excellence, an employer recognition program that celebrates and supports organizations that provide salary support to living donors. “Even 80% of someone’s salary would be enough,” Jupp said. “And it can save a life.”

Jupp has found that being an organ donor has become a much bigger part of her life than she thought. This summer, she is embarking on a few charity runs across Western Canada to raise awareness and funds for organ donation.

April is organ donation month — for more information, check out the National Kidney Foundation here.