Kidney Buddies for Life

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When Katie Birkhead saw that her former teammate and friend needed a kidney donation, she had no hesitation to reach out to see how she could help.

Chelsie Horton was diagnosed with Familial Juvenile Nephronophthisis at the age of two. This is a genetic kidney disease and Chelsie was expected to need a kidney transplant by the age of five. Chelsie overcame many odds and grew into a young adult before eventually getting the news that it was time for a transplant.

When Chelsie posted on her Facebook that she was in need of a kidney, Katie immediately reached out to see if she was able to get tested to see if she was a match. She felt compelled to help because after her father’s sudden passing when she was 10, he was able to be an organ donor and Katie saw how much he was able to change someone’s life. Knowing Chelsie has a four year old daughter, Katie became even more compelled to help. “As a child who lost a parent, I would never have wanted her daughter to go through that, or the rest of her family and our friends,” said Katie.

Though Katie didn’t end up being a direct match with Chelsie, through a paired exchange program, Katie was able to donate her kidney to a recipient in Portland and Chelsie’s pool of donors widened, finding her the perfect match.

“My life has had barely any change, and Chelsie’s is FOREVER going to be different,” said Katie. Because of cheerleading, Chelsie was able to find the perfect match for her kidney donor. “She trusted me as her middle layer in a pyramid, and as a base during partner stunts, and it was amazing to get to keep that trust and bond six years later with an organ.”

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