Giving Life: Martin’s Point Employee Donates Kidney

Posted 4/6/2022
two people smiling in hospital room

Martin’s Point is full of employees that generously donate their time and energy to community causes in the spirit of helping others. Megan Marsh, a supervisor at our contact center, decided to help in a different way — by donating a kidney to a person she’d probably never know.

On April 6, 2021, Megan was rolled into the ER for the final step in the long process in the Living Kidney Donation program at Maine Medical Center. That same day, her kidney was flown and then successfully transplanted to a patient in Illinois, effectively saving that person’s life.

“Each of our living donors has a wonderful story, and it has been our honor to facilitate this local hero’s wishes,” said Juan Palma, M.D., Director of Living Donation at the Maine Transplant Program. “The need for life saving organs continues to grow nationwide — 85 percent of patients on the National Transplant List are waiting for a kidney. In Maine, more than 200 people are on the kidney transplant list.”


Finding her way
Megan’s path here began in 2018, when she was working at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough and met a colleague who had volunteered as a surrogate mother.

“I’ve always been someone who wanted to save the world, and it got me thinking, what could I do to make a difference?”

On Facebook, she saw an ad for the Living Kidney Donation program at Maine Medical Center and clicked. The more she read, the more eager she was to participate. Long work hours make traditional volunteering a challenge. And this program had an answer for almost any roadblock she could think of.

Many people who donate kidneys are related to or have close relationships with the patient in need. Others, like Megan, simply stand up and sign up. Coincidentally, as Megan wound through the weeks of interviews, blood tests, x-rays, and other evaluative steps, it turned out a friend of her nephew’s needed a kidney. Incompatible blood types prevented a direct donation, but through a process called paired kidney donation, Megan was matched with another person through the National Kidney Registry. Her gift not only helped the registered patient, and also removed the agonizing waiting period for her friend, guaranteed him a kidney as soon as the time was right.

Learning and preparing
Donating a kidney is no small decision. The team makes sure donors go in with their eyes wide open. There are evaluations with social workers. Talks with nutritionists. Extensive conversations and a graphic slide show. As Megan says, “Going in, you know the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

There were practical points to think about too, like getting approval for time off work for recovery and securing financial support in case recovery runs long. Thankfully, as Megan found out, the Living Kidney Donation program has solutions. Evaluation, surgery and follow up are covered by health insurance — that’s the law. Donors can also receive financial support from Donor Shield, a program backed by the National Kidney Registry, for example.

For all of these reasons, at every step, donors are free to change their minds, but from the start, Megan was determined to go through with it. “The scariest part was telling my mom,” she remembers. “I knew she’d worry. Then later I started dating a great guy. And I had to tell him, just so you know if you’re going to be with me, I’d donating a kidney and I’m not changing my mind.”

No regrets
For Megan, support from family, friends, coworkers, and of course, the members of the Living Kidney Donation program played a large role. “They treat you like a rock star when you show up for surgery,” she remembers.

With her surgery taking place mid-pandemic, Megan had to attend all the prerequisite appointments and tests alone and was allowed only one visitor following surgery. Recovery for most donors is two to six weeks. And though Megan’s fell on the longer side, she has no regrets — and many heartfelt thanks for the Martin’s Point colleagues that pulled her along.

“I had nothing but incredible support,” she recalls. Colleagues covered for her during medical appointments. HR helped her plan her leave, using a combination of paid time off and even paid volunteer time off. Afterwards, coworkers sent flowers, chocolates, cards, and constant encouragement. Juan Palma-Vargas, MD, surgeon and director of the Living Kidney Donation, made a personal visit post-op.

Coincidentally, the first anniversary of Megan’s donor surgery falls in April, National Donate Life Month. She hopes others will consider undertaking this remarkable process. “It’s been an incredible experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“If I could inspire one person to click the link and check it out that would be awesome. I probably annoy my Facebook friends all the time. But the need is there. There’s a waitlist — and not everyone makes it to the top in time.”

For Megan, who has devoted her career to health care, it’s simple. “I want people to live long, happy lives,” she says. And thanks to her, now at least one more person can.

To learn more
Every year, about 25 Mainers help a friend, a relative, or a total stranger by donating a kidney, just like Megan did. For more information, explore Maine Medical Center’s Living Kidney Donation program or visit the National Kidney Registry.