The Ottumwa Courier

December 19, 2013

Pella resident gives a sacrificial gift

By Amy Holquist The Chronicle
The Pella Chronicle

---- — It all starts with a chain reaction. An impression of sacrifice and humility, passed from one person to the next, creating a ripple effect. At Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines this year, gracious participants in kidney donations caused a chain reaction, resulting in Pella resident Dixie Roorda deciding to give her own kidney to a special someone.

It all started with Lance Beyer’s story that was aired on KCCI Channel 8 News this past January. Beyer, also of Pella, was in need of a new kidney and received a donation from a stranger. As Roorda sat in her living room and watched the story unfold about Beyer and four other donors and recipients, she felt compelled.

“I saw that and I thought, ‘Wow, I wonder if I could do that.’”

Several years ago, one of her coworkers and a church family member’s brother needed a bone marrow transplant. Several employees banded together and signed up on the bone marrow registry. Roorda unfortunately was not a match for her friend’s brother. Beyer’s story reminded her of the time she tried to be a donor to someone in need, and his story moved her. She told her husband, Don Roorda, a retiree from Pella Corporation and the Iowa National Guard, that she once again wanted to try donate and be a match for someone in need.

“It meant so much to me. I just felt like it was a God thing. I felt like I needed to do this,” Roorda said.

There were a lot of unknowns and question, but Roorda felt in her heart that she needed to see if she could donate a kidney. As an employee at Madison Elementary at the Pella Community School District, she knew she could take some time off to undergo a kidney surgery.

“When Dixie gets something in her head, there’s no changing it. So I supported her from the get go,” Don Roorda commented.

So with her husband by her side, she went to her physicians in Pella and asked the question, “Can I be a donor?” Several tests, blood work and multiple doctor visits in Pella and Mercy Medical Center ensued for the next few months for Dixie and Don. During one week, Roorda spent every day for five days undergoing extensive tests. The process was long and arduous. Even though Roorda is in good health, she was worried that her age wouldn’t allow her to be a donor. After completing several physical tests and interviews with psychologists and sociologists, Roorda was finally approved in April as a kidney donor.

She was approved, but the hospital still needed to find a recipient. Finally, Roorda got a call that they had a match for her and surgery was scheduled for October 8. As they waited in anticipation for the surgery date, Dixie told her kids Brad, Brian and Becky Roorda of her plans.

“At first I was surprised and it really caught me off guard. After I absorbed it, I was really proud, honored and felt really special to have a mom who felt the need to give that much, especially to a stranger,” Brad Roorda commented about his mother’s plans to donate her kidney.

But as surgery date got closer, Roorda learned that the recipient got an infection and surgery had to be postponed.

“I was just absolutely devastated,” Roorda said. “They all were, everybody was just devastated,”

Surgery was soon rescheduled for December.

“When the second surgery was scheduled, I just thought ‘Oh please God, don’t let anything happen this time.’ I wanted to get it done this time,” she said.

With her husband and kids by her side, Roorda went into the four hour surgery on Tuesday, December 3.

“I was excited, nervous, scared….all those things. But I was just ready to do it, and meet the gal I was giving my kidney too. I was excited about that,” Roorda commented.

A few days after her surgery, the hospital had “The Big Reveal.” Roorda was finally able to meet the woman who received her kidney. The recipient, Regina Sinclair, cried and held Roorda’s hands as they shared about their lives. They found that they have a lot of similarities from their hobbies to their grandchildren.

Sinclair was not new to a kidney transplant surgery. She had always had problems with her kidneys and had a transplant in her early 30s, but that kidney soon began to fail and gave out just months later. She received another kidney donation that lasted several years, but had to go on dialysis. Roorda came along at just the right time to give Sinclair a chance at many more years of life.

“I just feel like I was meant to do it. I don’t feel like it was a sacrifice at all. I wanted to do it and I just can’t believe that I got to do it! I feel like I’m very lucky at my age to be able to get to do it. I am very lucky to have good health and I just wanted to pass it along,” Roorda said about her decision to be a donor.

Now Roorda is home recuperating from surgery and has felt an enormous amount of support and encouragement from her coworkers, church family at First Christian Reformed Church in Pella and the community.

“I’m hoping that because of my publicity, it will help encourage somebody down the road to become a donor. Someone might hear my story like I heard Lance’s, who knows. That’s what I would hope,” she said.