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Retired CHCCS teacher Karen Reid is looking for a kidney donor

karen reid contrib.jpg

Karen Reid, a retired Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools teacher, released a public letter to help her find a kidney donor. Photo courtesy of Karen Reid.

Karen Reid, a retired teacher from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, is looking for a kidney donor. 

Reid, who was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease in 2014, recently published a letter asking for help finding a donor. Her disease has now progressed to stage four and her kidneys have lost 85 to 90 percent of their function.

She said she did not immediately begin looking for a kidney donor after her diagnosis, as she hoped to find ways to make her kidneys last longer and didn't know how to ask people.

But in 2019, after her condition worsened, she started her search with UNC Kidney Center and has been on UNC's active transplant waiting list since. The average wait time in North Carolina for a transplant is five to six years, so she said her doctors told her the best option would be to find a living donor.

Reid said when she finally accepted what was happening, she went to workshops on how to ask for a living donor. She's done fundraisers and letter writing campaigns with her family and friends.

“I’ve gotten a lot of support from my friends, family, former students, their parents — it’s really been a great blessing and outpouring of support from so many people,” Reid said. “It’s been really hard to ask or put that out there, but sometimes you just have to ask.”

One of Reid’s friends, Mae McLendon, helped her share a letter to the community about her kidney disease and her search for a donor. After reading the letter, Molly McConnell, one of McLendon's friends, decided to share it with WTVD because it spoke to her heart, even though she has never met Reid.

“I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought,” McConnell said. “This lady is suffering, she needs help, she needs publicity because getting somebody to donate a kidney is not easy.”

Reid said she is still in a waiting pattern now to see if some of the people who reached out about donating after seeing her letter qualify or match her.

She said most of the people who reached out have been in North Carolina, and some of her friends have also tried to donate their kidney.

Alvin Garner, a friend of Reid and her husband since the '80s, said he wanted to donate his kidney to Garner but he was turned down because of his weight. Garner’s own wife died from kidney disease.

“I wish that my wife’s doctors had approached her earlier, but the opportunity is still there for Karen,” Garner said.

One of Reid's former co-workers, Pat Karrigan, also wanted to donate her kidney after seeing Reid's story on WTVD, but was declined because of a kidney stone.

Reid said the experience has been humbling.

“It’s hard for me to ask for anybody to give me a piece of them,” Reid said. “It would give me back a new lease on life, and there are a lot of things that I want to do.”

Reid has a two-year-old granddaughter that she would like to see grow up. She said talking about her journey might be able to help someone else in her position. For now, Reid is staying positive.

“I realized there’s no use in me sitting around having a pity party about this,” Reid said. “I still need to live and I still need to enjoy every minute I have, so I try to make the best of every day.”

If you or someone you know might be interested in donating a kidney or learning more about the process of living donation, you can reach out to Amy Woodard, living donor coordinator at UNC Medical Center. 


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