Natalie Luvaas understands what it means to see loved ones struggle with health issues, weather countless procedures and hope for better times. A corrections officer in Des Moines, Washington, and mom of four — two of whom have rare genetic conditions — she’s got a lot on her plate, but that didn’t stop her from looking for another way to help people.
When a chance came up for her to help someone in need, Luvaas was all in. Seeing the call for a police detective in Auburn, Washington, who needed a kidney donor with O-positive blood on her Facebook feed, she submitted her name.
While that didn’t work out, she was still interested in donating to help someone in need, so she turned to the group Donor Outreach for Veterans.
“I have always felt a strong respect and admiration for people who have dedicated their lives to our country,” she told Teamsters117.org. “If I can give back to them, I will in any way I can.”
It’s unusual for someone to freely offer up a kidney without knowing the recipient — or at least something about them — but Luvaas was ready to give the selfless gift of health to a total stranger.
“I am a big believer in paying it forward and being the change you want to see in the world but it isn’t the only reason why I responded to the opportunity to be a living organ donor,” she wrote in a DOVE Transplant post.
“Two of my children are special needs and have a rare genetic condition called Tatton Brown Rahman Syndrome,” Luvaas said. “Due to complications of this syndrome, I have spent many terrible nights beside my child in the ICU, recovering from surgeries, speaking to countless specialists, therapists, neurologists, etc.
“Every time my daughter was admitted to the hospital or diagnosed with another condition, I always prayed if she ever needed anything — if I couldn’t do it — someone, somewhere would be willing to donate to help save her life.
“Now I have the opportunity to be that someone, somewhere willing to donate to save a life. So here I am.”
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Navy vet Kendricks Brown was in dire straits and desperately needed a kidney. In fact, he had a match before and a donor lined up but passed so that another vet in a more dire situation could receive it.
Now he was being told that he had stage five kidney failure and could die at any moment. Luvaas’ kidney would change that prognosis.
The surgery was in August, and when donor and recipient first met, they immediately formed a bond.
“He instantly gave me a hug,” Luvaas said. “He started crying and said thank you over and over.”
They talked for hours before the surgery, which went well. But it has been the story of Luvaas’ gift, shared on social media, that has had even more potentially life-changing effects than even her generous donation.
On Sunday, the DOVE Transplant group shared on Facebook that as a result of Luvaas and Brown’s story, it has had “over 100 living kidney donor inquiries and 15 Veteran recipients have reached out for our help.”
The group hopes that the story will continue to be shared, potential donors will continue to reach out and matches will be made.
“With all of the loud negativity going on,” Luvaas said, “I know a single person can be the change they want to see in this world.”