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Donate Life Month: Rick Daynes, Altruistic Living Kidney Donor, Super Dad, and More!

By Deborah Pelaez, aakpRENALIFE Independent Writer

From the time he was young, Rick Daynes knew that his O negative blood type could help people. His mother and father also had O negative blood, and his mother always said, “Give blood whenever you can. God blessed you with a gift that you can give to anyone.” Inspired by her words, Rick did just that and donated his blood as much as he could for many years. Even as a busy husband and father to five children, three of whom have special needs—including his youngest, who has Down Syndrome and Autism—Rick remained committed to helping others through blood donation.

Donating a kidney was never on his radar until one day at a family reunion, his sister-in-law Lindsay mentioned a friend who needed a kidney. She then told Rick he had once met her friend, Jenny Petersen. Jenny was the wife of a couple who also had a child with Down Syndrome, who was about ten years older than Rick’s son. This triggered Rick’s memory, and rememered meeting the family. Lindsay explained the challenges they faced in finding a donor match for Jenny and how they were actively looking for individuals to be tested to be a living kidney donor. In that moment, Rick felt an overwhelming urge to help and said, “Put me on the list.”

After Rick and his family returned home from the family reunion, he received an email from his sister-in-law that included a link for registration to be tested to donate to Jenny. Before taking any more steps forward, Rick and his wife, Robin, had a serious conversation. He did not want to be tested unless they were both on board with this decision. Robin encouraged Rick and said that she “absolutely” wanted him to move forward with it. She told Rick that if it was her who needed a kidney, she would hope that others would do what he was going to do.

Rick completed the online form but did not receive a response right away. In fact, it had been a few months when he finally received a call from the University of Utah Transplant Center, which took him by surprise. Once he realized it was the transplant center calling to ask if he still was willing to be tested as a living kidney donor, he positively replied, “Yes, I’d still like to be tested.”

The initial testing was done at a local clinic near his home in San Diego, California, and mailed to Salt Lake City, Utah. Again, a few weeks went by, and Rick began to assume that he was not a match or that they had found someone else. The transplant center finally called and shared the news that his blood and tissues were a good match for Jenny! A staff member detailed the matching process, explaining the markers and cross-matching that was involved. After reflection and consideration, Rick agreed to proceed. 

Rick’s path toward kidney donation was far from smooth. He encountered numerous obstacles along the way, starting with a set of mandatory tests conducted at the transplant center. Unfortunately, these tests raised concerns due to his GFR level, falling into a perplexing “gray area.” He shared that at one point, he was even dismissed from the transplant program and had to convince
the medical team to allow him to redo the bloodwork. Throughout the entire process and testing, Rick kept a journal about what he was going through and detailing his entire journey. He shared that he kept focusing on the fact that there was a person, a mom, who needed this kidney to live, and he felt it was something he was destined to do. In the end, after months and rounds of testing, Rick was approved to be a living organ donor.

GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate. GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys filter blood. Learn more. 

Rick, living kidney donor, and Jenny, recipient.

On July 3, 2018, at 48 years old, Rick donated his kidney to Jenny, a mother of four who was born with just one kidney. Her one kidney was at six percent kidney function when the transplant took place, and she was on the verge of needing dialysis. 

Rick said the transplant surgery and recovery were a smooth process for him. He stayed two nights at the hospital and an additional two weeks near the transplant center in Salt Lake City before returning home.

An active person who loves the outdoors, surfing, and exercising, Rick stated that being a living kidney donor has not stopped him from doing anything he wants to do. Recently, Rick participated in the Kidney Transplant Games in San Diego and signed up for as many activities as he could. He competed in swimming, track and field, pickleball, and lyrics for life. He met a lot of new friends, many of whom are waiting for a donor. He felt concerned that some patients were giving up hope on finding a donor. He wishes to encourage anyone waiting today not to give up. “Keep fighting. There are good people out there that will donate.” He hopes to help bring more awareness to the need for organ donation and the many people who are waiting for a lifesaving kidney. “If you’ve got healthy kidneys, go for it–get tested to donate!” Rick says the experience has been a huge blessing to him and his entire family.

Now an author, Rick has written two books about his living kidney donation experience. One is based on his journal entries during the process, titled Bean There, Donor That: A Journey of Random Donation. The second book he wrote with his daughter, Summer, who was just eight years old at the time of his kidney transplant. Summer wanted to help other kids understand kidney donation. Their book is called Are You Kidney Me! Both books are available on Amazon.

Jenny and Rick (center) with their spouses before surgery.