NEWS | January 5, 2018

Good Samaritan kidney donor featured in National Geographic

(SACRAMENTO)

UC Davis Health patient Missy Ewing, who donated a kidney to a stranger, is featured in the January issue of National Geographic magazine in an article on the science of good and evil.

Copyright National Geographic/Lynn Johnson
Missy Ewing before surgery with her husband, Chris. Both Ewings were nondirected kidney donors. Photo courtesy National Geographic/Lynn Johnson.

Ewing is an altruistic, or good Samaritan, kidney donor, meaning she donated her organ without a specific recipient in mind. Ewing's husband, Chris, also was an altruistic kidney donor.

The article noted that extremely generous people like the Ewings tend to "have larger and more responsive right amygdalas, making them more sensitive to the emotions of others."

The magazine is available on newsstands now. An online version of the story can be viewed here: www.nationalgeographic.com

"I'm deeply humbled by the honor of seeing my story depicted so beautifully,” Ewing said.

“I hope these images that powerfully capture the joy and gratitude I felt about my donation will show a larger audience the experience of many altruistic kidney donors, including my husband, and inspire others to give as they are able,” Ewing added.

Rolando Bercasio was at a high school graduation ceremony for one of his children when the call came that blood tests were needed to confirm he was a match for a kidney from a living donor, whom he later would learn was Ewing. He had been on dialysis for end-stage renal disease for more than three years.

“I had just assumed it would never happen,” he said

His doubt was understandable. There are more than 100,000 people on kidney transplant waitlists but only about 17,000 kidney transplant surgeries in the U.S. each year. About a third of those surgeries involve living donor kidneys, which have several health advantages beyond deceased donor kidneys. Even more rare — about 3 percent — are kidney transplant surgeries due to good Samaritan living donors like the Ewings.

When they met, an emotional Bercasio hugged Ewing and said, “There are so many things I want to thank you for; you gave back life to me.”

More information about becoming a kidney donor is available on the transplant center website and through Sierra Donor Services.