Gary Smith: Founder of The Kidney Exchange Connection
Welcome! My name is Gary Smith. As a lifelong Montana resident, I grew up in Great Falls and graduated from the University of Montana in 1974. Since 2000, I have been a financial advisor with Edward Jones and my wife and I have 4 grown children and one granddaughter. For me, life is: my family, my community and my love of God. I believe I got to be a part of one of God's miracles when three lives were saved in 2006.
My story begins with my brother discovering he had polycystic disease after being hospitalized for a skiing accident. He eventually went on dialysis. I wanted to give a kidney to my brother but was not a good match. A Community Hospital blood technician offered to be tested as a possible donor to my brother. During this process, the technician moved out of town with a job transfer. At the same time, another friend of mine also needed a kidney, which I was will to donate. In the screening process, the Drs. in Missoula asked if there was any reason that I might not be willing to donate to my friend. I said I had originally wanted to give to my brother but that we didn’t match. This was when we heard about the paired exchange kidney transplant program at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle AND there was another man in Yakima Washington who also needed a kidney and his brother did not match. After test and through the grace of God, I matched the man in Yakima and his brother matched my brother. In October 2006, the first family exchange kidney transplant took place at Swedish Medical Center. My wife was initially hesitant which is understandable. She was worried about my health down the road. But after considerable thought and reassurance from the Dr’s, she felt more comfortable.
Our transplant surgeon, Dr. Chapman said that 2 kidneys give your body 4X’s the capacity that the body needs and 1 kidney still gives your body 2X’s what it actually needs. The surgery itself is laparoscopic which made recovery much easier. My health is great! If you’re wondering what happened to my friend that also needed a kidney? Since we were proceeding with the double transplant, I couldn’t give him my kidney. But then, more grace from God, another friend of ours stepped up BIG TIME and offered her kidney to our friend. This truly was a God given miracle. Three lives were saved through donation and never giving up! All donors and recipients remain healthy!
This is why we want to give back with the Kidney Exchange Connection website. We want this to be our family legacy. Please consider being tested. There is no greater gift than being a live kidney donor.