Kidney Recipient Appreciates Gift

Be a Donor! Surgeon operating image.

“To us, every day is an ice cream sundae with a great big glop of whipped cream and a cherry on top. We are alive. We are here. And we thank you, thank you, thank you.” As Linda Cheatham addressed donor families and living donors attending the National Donor Recognition Ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., tears rolled down her cheeks. She spoke that day not only for herself, but for all other transplant recipients, ten of them members of her family who, like her, have needed kidney transplants.

Kidney recipient Linda Cheatham speaking at the National Donor Recognition Ceremony image.

Kidney recipient Linda Cheatham speaks at
the National Donor Recognition Ceremony.

For Linda, “being here” means being a Certified Public Accountant who owns her own business and is president of one of the largest U.S. chapters of Transplant Recipients International Organization, Inc. In May of 2002, it meant that Linda and her sister participated in the Cannonball One Lap of America, an eight-day, 5,000-mile driving competition dotted with race track time trials and drag races along the way. Linda, her sister, and Linda’s Porsche Boxster, festooned with donation awareness decals, traveled through 22 states, beginning and ending in Rochester, N.Y. At that time, two of Linda’s family members were waiting for kidneys: a cousin and the sister who was lapping America with her. If Linda’s sister had received a call on the road that a kidney was available? “Then we would have raced for the transplant center! Any way you look at it, we are in a race for life!”

In 2003, Linda’s racing partner was a friend from her youth who happens to be a tissue recipient. Linda’s sister was recovering at home from her kidney transplant, the gift of a co-worker. Linda’s cousin had also become a recipient -- his living donor was his brother. Linda had car trouble during the 2003 race and came in last but crossed the finish line. But the finishing position doesn’t matter. "We do it because it’s fun, and because it makes people aware of the need for organ and tissue donors. That car gets a lot of attention, and each year we get to talk to a lot of people about becoming donors," Linda said. Linda’ sister -- with her new kidney -- was back in the race in 2004. “During the race we do TV, radio and newspaper interviews – we will talk to any one who will listen,” Linda said.

Date Last Reviewed:  September 2017

Did You Know?

  • The number of people waiting for a donated organ in the United States surpassed 100,000 for the first time on October 6, 2008.
  • About 75 percent of those awaiting organs need kidneys—most commonly transplanted organ.
  • Each year, more than 10,000 people with life-threatening diseases need bone marrow or cord blood transplants.
  • Only 30 percent of 10,000 people have a relative who is a suitable donor.