Shawnee councilmember Stephanie Meyer donating a kidney to friend’s husband

Shawnee councilmember Stephanie Meyer recently celebrated her kidney match with Dan Harmon. The surgery is next Tuesday. Photo by Jennifer Liss

When Shawnee councilmember Stephanie Meyer discovered she was a match for a friend who needed a kidney transplant, she jumped on board with it right away.

“It’s been on my radar for seven or eight years,” she said, citing friends whose parents needed a kidney and a friend who needed a kidney transplant. “It kept crossing my path. I kept thinking about it and, prior to that, I hadn’t given any thought to living donations.”

About a year ago, Meyer finally decided to sign up as a living donor. Five days later, a good friend from high school, Katie Harmon, posted on Facebook that her husband, Dan, has polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes cysts to grow on his kidney.

“That is incredible timing; that’s a sign,” Meyer said of her thought process at the time.

Meyer was told the odds of being a kidney match with a stranger is 1 in 32,000. So she was delighted to learn in May, after completing several blood tests, that the University of Kansas Hospital staff approved her to be Harmon’s donor.

“The team at KU is just phenomenal; we’re in the best hands,” she said. “We’ll both be in operating rooms next to each other, and the kidney won’t be out in the world for very long before Dan gets it.”

Fortunately, Harmon hasn’t reached dialysis level yet (10 percent of kidney function), so he and Meyer could take their time with scheduling the transplant, Meyer added. The transplant will take place next Tuesday at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.

Harmon, who lives with his wife in Wichita, said the process with Meyer has been quick, and he found it “amazing” to see that she was the first possible donor and also successfully tested for a match.

“A living donor makes things so much simpler; there’s so much better results, from what doctors say about the survivability and the less amount of rejection time from the living donor,” Harmon said. “It’s really a wonderful thing for people to be living donors.

“It’s made my life; I never would have expected any of this. This has just been, for lack of a better word, easy. And I’ve been very blessed that people have been able to come out and be willing to go through this process.”

Meyer said donating her kidney, even while she’s alive, has been on her heart for a while.

“I had an honestly not fantastic childhood,” she said. “I lost my father when I was 4, my house had survived a tornado when I was 9, and really throughout my childhood, there were people in my life who stepped in and who made sure that everything was OK for me.

“I’ve been really driven — now that I’ve become an adult and have a very blessed and full life — to really give back and kind of pay it forward to folks whenever I can. This seems like a perfect extension of that.”

Meyer admitted that she was unsure she wanted to go public with the story because “it felt like a weird, shameless plug.” But after thinking about it, she felt it was important to raise awareness of the need. She learned that about 100,000 people are on the waiting list and every day, 13 people die on that list waiting for a kidney.

“I think we have an opportunity to increase awareness here and let people know that this is something that is a really viable option,” Meyer said. “I’m going to be able to resume a completely normal life after the surgery. Dan is going to be able to extend his because of it. It’s really a win-win, and I just encourage more folks to look into it.”