Kidney donation will bind two TD families forever
TD's Heather O'Brien was happy for her colleague, Brandon Lisa, when he first told her about the man who would eventually become his husband – Jeremy Young.
But she never expected 12 years later, Jeremy would also change the life of her family forever when he donated his kidney to help save the life of Heather's son.
"Now Jeremy is a part of my family, and I'll love him forever," Heather said.
The long search
The situation for Heather's son, Roger Sandberg, was getting serious. The 34-year-old, who'd been diagnosed with diabetes as a child, was in kidney failure and in need of a transplant. Heather, a TD Operational Risk Manager in Falmouth, Maine, was determined to help her son.
Unfortunately, finding a donor wasn't easy. Many family members were tested, but no match was found. Heather put out feelers on social media and was touched by how many people—even someone she hadn't seen since middle school—came forward to help.
In March, Heather hosted a benefit, and living donor drive, where her former Internal Audit colleague Brandon came along with his now husband, Jeremy. At the benefit, Jeremy went out of his way to introduce himself to Roger, which made Heather a bit curious.
"Little did I know he was going to impact my life forever," she said.
Roger Sandberg and Jeremy Young
The perfect donor found
When Brandon, a TD Operational Risk Officer, first told Jeremy about Roger's situation, Jeremy recalled meeting Heather years earlier.
"I then had a fleeting thought of 'hey, maybe I should get tested to see if I’m a match' but then didn't think any more about it" Jeremy said. "A few weeks later Brandon mentioned Roger again. That time, something moved in my core that said, 'get tested' so I began the process."
Lo and behold, Jeremy was right—he was a perfect donor for Roger.
Brandon knew that Jeremy was going through tests to see if he would be a match more than a month before Heather was told. However, he honored Jeremy's wish not to let anyone know about the testing process until it was confirmed that he would be a match.
"It was so hard not to tell her!" Brandon confessed. When Jeremy found out that he was the match, they both called Heather right away.
Heather recalled she was at a loss for words, but she cried tears of joy when the two men told her the news.
"This whole experience has been a whirlwind from being diagnosed, to the actual day I got the call from Jeremy saying he was going to be my donor; it was a roller coast of emotions," Roger said. "End stage kidney disease is trying on your body, but also on your mind. Having someone volunteer to give up a part of themselves to save your life is very humbling. I have been truly blessed to get to know such a wonderful selfless person like Jeremy. What he did is amazing. I'm very happy that I can call him my friend."
TD's commitment to work-life balance helped reduce stress
Both Brandon and Heather were grateful for the priority on work-life balance in their US Operational Risk Management department at TD.
"There were so many appointments and so much to be done in advance to get Roger ready and approved for the transplant," Heather said. "I never once felt worried that I needed time away from the office. I kept management informed, they actively supported me, and helped me with back-up to take the time off that I needed. That helped keep my stress level manageable. It's really important to focus on your family and know that the company you work for respects this concept."
Brandon also expressed his gratitude for TD's support that enabled him to make plans to help in Jeremy's recovery.
The road to recovery—and beyond
Jeremy experienced some pain from the kidney donation procedure, but his recovery went better than expected as he was able to walk that very first day. Brandon noted that Jeremy was back at work at his home office within eight days. Within six weeks, it was as "if nothing ever happened," Brandon said.
Now that he's had time to reflect, Jeremy considers it the most wonderful thing he's done in his life.
"I do some ministry work, and my relationship with God has always been of utmost importance to me," Jeremy said. "I had often asked for the opportunity to make a difference, a tangible difference, in someone’s life. For me, it was a blessing and a gift to be used in such a wonderful way. Roger is such a great guy, and the experience was very humbling for me to have an impact on his life. In a world that seems so chaotic right now, it’s calming to know that a positive difference can still be made."
As for Roger, his progress post-surgery was profound. "He looks good, he feels good…it's like night and day," Heather said, adding that prior to the transplant, Roger was only weeks away from having to go on dialysis.
Roger has an important message for all in the aftermath of his recovery.
"Living donation saves lives every day," Roger said. "There are so many people still waiting, and I am hoping this story may just inspire a few more people to get involved".
If you'd like to learn more about organ donation and/or how to become a living donor, visit https://www.donatelife.net