Travis Spire-Sweet choked-up a little as he remembered back five years ago around Valentine’s Day when his girlfriend Taesha Benson gave him her kidney. “I think about that gift every single day,” Travis said gazing at Taesha who is now his wife. “I can’t even describe how much better I feel and the joy I get from having energy where I had none before.”
Taesha agreed, “He used to take naps three times a day and now he has trouble falling asleep.” Travis, who suffered chronic kidney problems from birth, believes his insomnia stems from always feeling exhausted before falling asleep. “Now, I have no cue of exhaustion to tell me it’s time for sleep,” Travis said with a smile. “I have so much energy.”
Taesha and Travis agree that given the opportunity, they would make the same decision over again. Both also say they fell in love at first sight, although Taesha said it first. “I only held back telling her how much I loved her because I didn’t want to put pressure on her to give me her kidney,” Travis explained. “I told her how I felt before the transplant.”
Travis also made mention during a love note he asked family to hand to Taesha following surgery when they both were in the recovery room in side-by-side beds. “I love your kidney,” Travis wrote. Taesha says the surgery and recovery are all a bit of blur to her. What she remembers most is how quickly Travis began to feel better and had the opportunity to take care of her often since the transplant.
“In the past five years, I’ve lost both of my parents to cancer,” Taesha said. “Having Travis here and healthy to lean on during those times really puts life into perspective.”
February 14, is universally recognized as Valentine’s Day, but few are aware that National Donor Day is also celebrated that day. The surgeons who made the transplant possible say Travis and Taesha are great examples of how the living donation help extend and improve the quality of life of patients.
“Living donation helps in two major ways by not taking a potential deceased donor kidney from the organ pool, so it can be used for another recipient without a living donor AND it provides a living donor organ for a recipient who would otherwise have to wait years for a deceased donor kidney,” said Sean Kumer, MD, Ph.D, VP of Operative Services and transplant surgeon at The University of Kansas Hospital. “Living donor recipients enjoy a longer organ survival on average 3-5 years longer than the commensurate deceased donor kidney.”
In the video below, Director of Transplantation, Tim Schmitt explains how the program at The University of Kansas Health System has grown and why there is still a need for donation. Dr. Kumer talks more about living donation and Travis and Taesha Spire-Sweet share more memories from the past five years.