Meet Jeff Klister, the living kidney donor coordinator at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. In an unassuming cubicle he does his part to save lives. His primary role is to communicate with living kidney donors to help them navigate the evaluation process for donating their kidney, to a loved one or stranger. Jeff also coordinates with surgeons and the entire medical team to ensure everyone has the best information to make a determination about the potential living kidney transplant.
Jeff has been working in this role for 2 months, but he is not new to kidney transplant. For the past 17 years he has been working at Aurora St. Luke’s giving great care to patients with end stage renal disease. With the creation and development of the abdominal transplant program at Aurora St. Luke’s, his unit evolved into the abdominal transplant unit.
Throughout his years in patient care, Jeff also worked in his spare time serving patients at local dialysis centers. “Patients are at ease when they see a familiar face at dialysis,” says Jeff. “I remember them from their time in the hospital and they remember me. It develops a good rapport and trust.”
Jeff is excited about this new opportunity to serve patients as the living kidney donor, though he is getting used to sitting at a desk instead of at a bedside. Soon he will be out in the community, educating more people about living kidney donation and the paired exchange program with the National Kidney Registry.
“Most people are born with two kidneys – so they have one to spare to help another person,” says Jeff. “Being a living donor is an amazing opportunity.” Jeff explains that the national waitlist for a kidney from a deceased donor is 3-5 years and with the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes in our community, the waitlist is getting longer.
Having seen patients after the donation/transplantation many times from the clinical side he is able to explain the process and recovery to donors as they consider donating their kidney. “The laproscopic and robotic surgeries Drs. Waples and Leonovitz perform are much less invasive and the recovery is faster – 3 to 6 weeks or so.”
Jeff’s calendar is peppered with the first names of people he has helped – marking their transplant date. These are not just cases for him. They are people. “When I see a surgery is scheduled, after all the tests, blood work, exams, interviews, and physician reviews, I know I have made a difference. I know I have helped someone – a mom, brother, grandma, uncle – I helped them lead a normal life again, freed from hours of dialysis.”
Jeff knows his next step is sharing information about kidney donation with the entire community. “We need resources to educate people and expand their understanding of living donation. Not many people know this is an option and it is right here in our community.”
If you are considering live kidney donation and would like more information, contact Jeff Klister at Jeff.Klister@aurora.org.