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St. David’s HealthCare honored those who have saved lives through organ donation during National Donate Life Month. Celebrated in April each year, National Donate Life Month is also intended to encourage Americans to register as donors.

For Michele Dunlap, whose husband recently suffered kidney failure, it hits close to home. Rather than taking their chances on the deceased donor waiting list, Dunlap decided to donate one of her kidneys.

Roughly 80 percent of people waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the United States are in need of kidney transplants. On average, candidates wait nearly four years for this surgery. With Dunlap’s donation, her husband, Dr. Anthony Hicks, was on dialysis for less than three months before undergoing transplant surgery.

“Many said we couldn’t do it this quickly, but I was determined to move forward and get him a kidney,” Dunlap said. “I love him and want to keep him around for a long time.”

The transplant surgery was performed at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, which features the only kidney transplant center in the Austin area. Since The Kidney Transplant Center opened in 1996, more than 600 kidney transplants have been performed.

“The goal is to provide the recipient with a well-functioning kidney that will double life expectancy over what it would be on dialysis,” Dr. Richard Lewis, surgical and program director at The Kidney Transplant Center at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center, said.

Both Dr. Hicks and his wife continued to work throughout the preliminary transplant treatment. In fact, most of Dr. Hicks’ patients weren’t even aware of the transplant until after he had recovered.

Living organ donors must undergo a comprehensive screening process.

“If anyone has a desire to become a living donor, I would recommend just going for it,” Dunlap said. “While there are many things to consider before making the decision, it’s been over two years since the transplant, and I’ve had no complications.”

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