Milwaukee radio DJ donates kidney to stranger to help mother-in-law get a kidney of her own

Elizabeth Kay donated her kidney to someone in Kentucky
Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 9:02 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -A Milwaukee radio DJ is recovering at home after donating her kidney to a stranger to help save her own mother-in-law’s life. Elizabeth Kay is the morning show DJ at 99.1 The Mix. She recently announced on the air that she would be undergoing surgery to remove her kidney.

“So, this started pretty much in December 2019 when we found out my mother-in-law Camille was in stage 4 kidney failure,” said Kay. “When she gave us this news, we were shocked because she felt fine, she looked fine,”

Kay says more than 100 family members and friends stepped up to get tested to see if they were a match to donate. Unfortunately, no one was the right fit. But doctors told Elizabeth about the Paired Kidney Exchange program. Basically, Kay can donate her kidney to someone in the country she matched with in exchange for Camille to get her match.

“It was guarantee that she would get a better match and get a match faster because there is more fish in the pond, so to speak,” said Kay.

On March 31st, Kay had surgery at UW Hospital in Madison to remove her kidney. The organ was immediately shipped to Kentucky to be transplanted into someone there. Camille received her new kidney from someone in California. She also had her surgery at UW Hospital.

Elizabeth Kay and her mother-in-law Camille pose after their surgeries
Elizabeth Kay and her mother-in-law Camille pose after their surgeries(Elizabeth Kay)

“I have such gratitude to the person in California who did this for her and to know that if I could do this for a family in Kentucky just really means a lot too,” said Kay as she welled up with tears.

“Our living donors are heroes,” said Melissa Schafer, UW Health’s Living Donor Transplant coordinator. “These are people volunteering to undergo a major medical procedure, a surgery that has zero medical benefit for themselves. They are doing it out of the kindness of their heart, often to help a family member friend or loved one, so they are incredible people,”

Kay also had a deeper reason for wanting to donate.

“I am also someone who has not been able to have a baby, I have undiagnosed infertility,” said Kay. “Nine years ago this week is when I did lose my baby and I feel like it’s kind of come full circle in the same week that I am able to give life, but just in a different way,”

Kay says that if she had to do it all over again, she would in a heartbeat.

“I started this process and I never looked back. I know what Camille means to our family what she means to me,”

Elizabeth and Camille are both out of the hospital and recovering well at home. April is national donate life month and UW Health is encouraging people to become a living donor.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 12 people die every day in the U.S. waiting for a kidney transplant.

If you are interested in becoming a living donor, check out UW Health’s website here.

Kay and Camille hug after surgery
Kay and Camille hug after surgery(Elizabeth Kay)

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