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Heeding the Call: These Living Organ Donors Stepped Up

Ron Downing with his wife Veronica; Nikki Ward and her friend Tory Kemp; Shana Roche with her daughter and father, Michael Cox

Imagine being able to save someone's life just by giving them a part of your body. That's what living organ donors do. They’re everyday heroes who choose to help others by giving a kidney or part of their liver.

You, too, can choose to be a living donor. During Donate Life Month, we looked at both:

We know that deciding to donate is a deeply personal choice. That's why we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Read on to see what inspired these living organ donors to give.

Shana Donates to Her Father in Need

When Shana Roche found out her father, Michael Cox, was in liver failure and needed a liver transplant, she stepped up to help. “It’s hard to put into words the devastation that you feel,” she said, about finding how bad Michael’s liver condition had gotten. Without a transplant, Michael’s life expectancy was less than five years.

Shana Roche

"We had full faith and trust in UVA Health from day one."

Shana and her family put their pregnancy plans on hold so she could donate part of her liver to Michael. “My daughter is the shining example,” said Michael. “She’s just so strong.”

Luckily, she was a good match. She went through with the donation. “We had full faith and trust in UVA Health from day one and never doubted such an amazing group of supporters there. I wouldn't want to pick any other place,” said Shana about her living liver donation experience.

The surgery was successful. Michael had a new liver, and shortly after, Shana and her husband were given the green light to get pregnant. They soon welcomed a girl to the family.

“We just think it was a miracle,” Shana says. “Everything happened the way it should.” See Shana and Michael’s living liver transplant story.

Ron’s Not a Match, But Veronica Still Got a Kidney

Veronica Downing’s kidney issues returned years after her first kidney transplant. She had first received a donor kidney from her mother.

Veronica Downing

"I really trusted this system."

This time, her husband Ron volunteered to donate. Unfortunately, they didn’t match. “When I first found out that we weren't a match, your heart sinks. You’re like, ‘Oh no,’” said Ron.

But it wasn’t the end of the road. “The doctor told us there is another option,” he said. Through a paired donor exchange, Ron could possibly give his kidney to another recipient, in exchange for a kidney that matched Veronica. “You listen when someone says, ‘OK, we're not at the dead end here,’” stated Ron. Ron and Veronica were the first to participate in a paired donor exchange at UVA Health.


Your generous act could save the life of a loved one, a friend, or even a stranger.

“I watched his whole medical procedure, how they thoroughly examined all of his health conditions from top to the bottom. And I really trusted this system,” said Veronica about Ron’s living donation here.

Veronica’s paired donor exchange kidney transplant was a success. “It’s a new beginning, but every day comes with a lot of variables,” Ron said about life after the surgery. “She’s the hero. I just did what you do for a loved one,” he said. See Ron and Veronica’s paired donor exchange story.

Social Media Post Inspired Nikki to Donate

“It was a mutual friend that connected us, put it on social media. We went to high school together,” said Nikki Ward about Tory Kemp and his need for a kidney transplant.

Nikki Ward

"Everything just went like clockwork."

Tory was facing a second kidney transplant. “I guess I took it personal. I would hope that if I was in the situation, that someone would step up and help in any way possible.”

She decided to help Tory by donating one of her kidneys. She credits the UVA Health transplant team with making her comfortable through the process. “Even though I was slightly nervous, because of the unknown and what was to come, I felt educated and comforted,” she said.

“It just seemed effortless sometimes, because everything just went the way it was supposed to, I felt. Everything just went like clockwork.”

The transplant was a success and Tory was able to get back to enjoying his life. “I have my freedom back,” he said. And, they’ve become close friends as a result. “He texts me on the 29th of every month,” she said. “It's a great - every month without fail. And I think it's a great friendship.”

Tory agreed. “Love her! I mean, she saved my life,” he said. See Tory and Nikki’s transplant story.

Living Organ Donation at UVA Health

Our transplant team at UVA Health is the most experienced in Virginia. We have over 50 years of dedicated research, support, and expertise in performing organ transplants. Constantly researching and training in the newest techniques, so that you get the best care possible.

We offer a number of support groups for both patients and caregivers. These groups provide a supportive community where you can share your thoughts and feelings and find comfort and encouragement.

Your decision to become a living organ donor can make a life-saving difference for someone in need. Consider becoming a living organ donor today and help save a life.

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