Kidney donor and recipient meet and share the importance of giving life

Posted Jan. 5, 2011

A man who donated a kidney without knowing who would receive the organ was introduced on December 21 to the joyful recipient at UC Davis Health System.

Donor James Claflin and transplant recipient Orlynda Pickens © UC Regents
Chico resident James Claflin meets the recipient of his kidney donation, Orlynda Pickens, who is from Vallejo.

James Claflin, a 57-year-old geography instructor at CSU Chico, provided the gift of a kidney to Orlynda "Lindy" Pickens, a 57-year-old resident of Vallejo and real-estate broker. Pickens needed a transplant to avoid daily dialysis treatments and a diminished quality of life due to polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder characterized by cysts that disrupt kidney function. The condition can lead to kidney failure.

Both were at the health system for exams to assess their recoveries following the surgeries a week prior. After a private meeting, they talked with reporters in the hope of encouraging others to consider kidney donation. When asked if she had a new brother, Pickens said, "I have a new soul mate."

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Claflin became interested in becoming a kidney donor after discussing the subject with his daughter, who was studying transplant issues as part of a medical ethics class. As an avid cyclist, one of his initial concerns was recovery time, which he learned has been greatly reduced due to newer surgical techniques.

"I won't even miss a mountain bike racing season," he said, and joked with Pickens, "If you suddenly have the urge to start riding mountain bikes, you'll know why."

The vast majority of kidney donations are directed to blood relatives, spouses or friends. Only about 1 percent of donations are non-directed — or altruistic — like Claflin's. According to the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there currently are nearly 17,000 candidates waiting for kidney transplants in California.