Waiting on a Donor, but Not on Life

It’s hard for 37-year-old Malia Smith to imagine how she will feel after undergoing a kidney transplant. Having battled Lupus for more than half her life, health struggles are part of Malia’s normal routine.

At age 12, Malia was treated intermittently for concerning symptoms. A year later her kidneys almost completely failed, and she was diagnosed with Lupus. Thanks to her physicians, much of her kidney function was restored and the Lupus remained dormant for nearly ten years. Even with positive results, she knew the sustained damage would eventually land her on the transplant list.

A heart attack in March 2015 was the catalyst that added her name to the living transplant wait list on her 36th birthday: June 30, 2015.

Community support keeps her strong
“My small community has really rallied behind me,” Malia said. “I took a picture of my donor card and posted it on Facebook. The number of people who offered their support, shared the post and wanted to be tested to determine if they were a match was overwhelming.”

However, there are moments when waiting for a kidney brings waves of intense emotion. Reflecting on what a future might look like for her three-year-old son if a donor is not found brought Malia to tears.

“I have moments of ‘what if.’ The thought of not being around to raise Pierce…” she said. “It breaks my heart to hear him say, ‘Mommy sick?’ as I’m lying in bed.”

Impacting her community in return
Despite the struggles, most days Malia doesn’t feel limited by her health. It’s hard to slow down with her responsibilities as an English teacher, head dance coach for Mattoon High School, weekend dance coach and mom of three. It may seem busy, but Malia really enjoys giving back to the children in her life.

“I look at my kids, especially my dance team, and I really enjoy that the work I do helps them develop confidence that will last throughout their lives,” Malia said. “They also get to experience my health issues closely and appreciate the things they are able to do with ease—breath, walk, dance. It gives them a valuable perspective on life.”

Save a life in mere minutes
Malia continues to wait on the transplant list with approximately 120,000 others across the United States. Despite the incredible need, many people are unaware of how to become a donor.

In Illinois, visit LifeGoesOn.com to register. Registry information is only released to organ and tissue procurement personnel and medical examiners after all efforts have failed to save a person’s life. First-Person Consent makes your decision to be an organ/tissue donor legally binding. Additional witnesses or family consent is no longer required; your wishes will be honored.

Despite the challenges and moments of doubt, Malia remains positive and optimistic about the future.

“I’ve always had it in my head that it’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s naïve, but I believe everything will fall into place.” She added with a laugh, “The call will come in early summer so I don’t have to miss a day of school.”