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Over twenty years, our CEO Nanette Zumwalt has given endless passion, dedication, and support to countless individuals nationwide. Recently, she found herself faced with a daunting new challenge — and in need of help. Here for the first time, Nanette shares the story of her kidney donor journey — from diagnosis to a new direction.

As I sit here and welcome in August, I can’t help but reflect on the whirlwind that 2023 has been. This time last year, I found myself in my doctor’s office, confronted with the harsh reality of end-stage renal failure. Despite leading a healthy lifestyle, participating in medication research, and doing everything in my power to outrun this disease, I was faced with a daunting decision: find a living kidney donor or face a future of dialysis.

In those moments of fear and uncertainty, I clung to the hope I could overcome this challenge with guidance, determination, and perseverance. It was a rationalization born out of my unwavering conviction in the power of good in people and the resilience of the human spirit. Fate had a plan in store for me; I wasn’t done yet. It placed in my heart a new fire that would forever alter the course of my life’s path.

Last October, surrounded by the love and support of my family, friends, and community, (a special thank you to Karen Odell Barber, Robbin Mooney, Ruth Ann Rigby, Marni Luther, Tracey Garner, and so many others) we organized the first Core Kidney Gala. Our shared mission was to raise awareness about the pressing need for living kidney donation. In the United States alone, over 106,000 people are waiting for organ transplants, and every nine minutes, another person is added to that list. Tragically, an average of 17 people lose their lives each day while waiting for a match. It hits so close to home as my own mother was one of those unfortunate souls who never received the donor kidney she so desperately needed.

My medication research study experience led me to join the donor waitlist at UCLA — a leading hospital for transplant. My loved ones began sharing my story with anyone who would listen: friends, colleagues, and everyone in our community. The response I received was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. The staff at UCLA were left astounded, wondering where this outpouring of support was coming from. The answer filled my heart with immense pride: These compassionate souls emerged from our very own recovery community. It was incredible. I still don’t know who each one of you angels were, but I thank you quietly with all the love I have.

These angels, through their selflessness took the meaning of service to a whole new level, stepping forward to offer me the gift of life, an organ! Their generosity overwhelmed me, and I was in awe of the love and compassion that flows within our community. In November, the miracle happened – a donor match was found for me. And in December, I underwent a life-saving kidney transplant at UCLA, a testament to the power of love and the human capacity for kindness.

My donor, Diana, is more than an altruistic soul; she is a true earth angel. She flew all the way from Spain to give me a chance at living a healthier and longer life. After all the searching, we found my match, my savior in my son’s mother-in-law, my daughter-in-law’s mother – in essence, my own family. She has become my forever angel sister, and her altruism has forever touched my soul.

Each day as I awaken, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the second chance at life that I’ve been granted. I feel a profound responsibility to carry forward the torch of awareness for living kidney donation. This journey has awakened a purpose within me – to be a beacon of hope and support for others who are still waiting for the gift of life.

If you or someone you love finds themselves in need of a kidney or if you are curious about the process of being a kidney donor, I implore you to reach out to me or to THE CORE Kidney Program directly. We are here to provide information, guidance, and unwavering support.

This year, we established the Core Kidney Foundation with a powerful mission – to pay it forward to those who are still awaiting the life-saving gift of a new kidney. I humbly ask you to join us in supporting this noble cause. Together, we can make a real difference and touch the lives of countless individuals who are desperately seeking hope and a chance to live.

Please, let us stand together in unity, compassion, and love, as we are standing for those still suffering with addiction and mental health issues. United, we can create miracles — just as Diana did for me. Thank you for being a part of this journey and for lending your heart to this cause that has become so near and dear to me.

With heartfelt love and eternal gratitude,

Nanette Zumwalt