South Ga. veteran gives fellow vet life-saving gift

Organization talks need for kidney transplants among veterans
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Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - One South Georgia Veteran is helping a fellow veteran continue to fight for his life. All thanks to a different kind of sacrifice she made.

Lindsay Gutierrez decided to give the gift of life after participating in the American Elegance pageant. During the pageant, she met a friend who was devastated about needing a kidney transplant.

Gutierrez became an organ donor on May 25, giving a kidney to another veteran named Reggie. Reggie had been on dialysis for three years, lost both his kidneys and was diagnosed with cancer.

“Me being O-Positive blood, I knew that I could be a universal donor. So I said, ‘Hey if he needs anything, let me know. I’m happy to donate.’ And didn’t even think twice about it. The words just came right out. I was just excited to know that this was going to be a brand new start for somebody else,” she said.

She decided to go through Donor Outreach For Veterans, also known as DOVE, because they specialize in helping veterans that need transplants.

Sharyn Kreitzer is the CEO of DOVE. She’s worked in the transplant field for over 25 years. She said she developed an interest in getting kidney transplants and living donations for veterans when she saw the long list of veterans dying from the need for transplants.

Video from WALB

“The list means that somebody is waiting for a kidney. That’s coming from a deceased donor and that wait time in the United States is about 5-8 years or even longer depending on your region, blood type and where you’re listed,” Kreitzer said.

DOVE started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to save 19 veterans’ lives in the past 13 months through the gift of living donations.

Kreitzer said veterans have a greater risk of kidney failure and kidney disease.

Experts say more than 90,000 patients are waiting for kidney transplants, yet only about 20,000 transplants are performed each year.

Gutierrez said serving beyond the uniform is what called her to donate her kidney. She would happily do it again.

“It’s something that could never be repaid. And I knew that and I knew going in that it wasn’t something that I was ever going to have an expectation of somebody repaying me. Organ donation is something that you have to do and want to do if you feel called to do it,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez and her husband plan to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in March 2023 for World Kidney Day. It’s a charity trek to raise awareness for living kidney donations and a fundraiser for DOVE. They are seeking sponsors to help with the fundraisers. If you would like to be a part of the movement, contact Gutierrez by email.

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