DENVER — Taira Foster is a registered nurse who loves traveling with her husband. If you met her you would have no idea that she donated two organs but she would probably be quick to tell you about it.
“I think people are usually a little shocked and think it’s kind of crazy, I’ve had people ask why would you do that," Foster said.
Foster donated a kidney in August 2017 and part of her liver in September 2019. She became curious about living organ donation when a coworker's son needed a kidney. Foster wasn't a match but it turns out her husband was a perfect fit.
As her husband went through the process to donate a kidney, Foster knew the need was great and decided she would also donate too. She posted about her decision on Facebook, that's when a friend from the past reached out who knew of someone on the waiting list.
"We ended up donating our kidneys two weeks apart so we had our surgeries two weeks apart which was really cool to have someone so close that is going through it with me at the same time," said Foster.
Foster met the recipient in the hospital parking lot when they were there for an appointment and they became fast friends. She says they now share a bond unlike any other.
"We call each other kidney sisters," said Foster. "I think there’s love between us we always tell each other that we love each other so it just feels very special we definintely have a genuine connection."
She was living in Florida at the time of the kidney donation and realized she wanted to help others through the process. Foster landed her dream job at UCHealth as a Living Donor Transplant Coordinator and moved to Colorado.
As she learned more about transplants, she decided to explore living liver donation and soon she was being prepped for surgery again.
"I knew with liver donation it’s a much bigger surgery but I just felt like I know I’m a healthy individual, I’m blessed to be healthy and if I can share some of this health with someone else I felt like I should do that and I wanted to do that," said Foster.
Part of her liver went to an 11-month-old girl and that's all she knows about the recipient.
Chief of Transplant Surgery, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret, said most living donors have a relationship with the recipient but that's not always the case in Colorado.
“Our program is unique in that we probably have one of the largest populations of people who have come forward who don’t have any relationship with a recipient who want to donate a portion of their liver.”
Dr. Pomfret isn't quite sure how to explain the phenomena. She said 20 people in their living liver program have no relationship to the recipient and of those individuals 12 previously donated a kidney.
"So they’ve donated two organs ultimately which is extraordinary, that’s pretty much unheard of," Dr. Pomfret said.
The program is so successful it has eliminated the liver transplant waiting list at Children's Hospital Colorado.
"It’s very unusual that you can eliminate the waiting list for a children’s hospital with living donation and especially through this altruistic or this non directed donation," Dr. Pomfret said.
April is National Donate Life month and you can sign up for the donor registry through the Division of Motor Vehicles when you obtain or renew a driver permit, license or state ID. Additional information about UCHealth's Living Organ Donation Program is available here.