It’s often said that you can find anything on the internet. Our rider of the month is living proof. Kia Calderon-Dillon has scoured the web to find endurance rides to do with her mom (such as the two-day, 200-mile Seattle to Portland ride they completed in 2015), parenting tips on caring for her three kids, and plenty of volunteering opportunities to help around her Stevenson, Washington, community.
She also found a way – on Facebook – to donate one of her kidneys.
“I decided I wanted to be an organ donor at a young age, but at that point the medical profession frowned on donating a kidney if you thought you wanted to have children later,” she explained. “After I had my third child, I began looking into it again. Once I started doing the online research, it was a very fast process.”
Calderon-Dillon joined the Facebook group Kidney Transplant Donors and Recipients. As a healthy donor in her late 20s, she was immediately popular with many would-be recipients. Since she was a person who took care of her body, she wanted to find someone who would continue nurturing the part of her she was giving away.
One man stood out from the rest: A 42-year-old father of six (now seven) in Michigan who never drank, never smoked, was a vegetarian, and who ran marathons until he started dialysis for his failing kidneys. Even as his health deteriorated, he continued to work as a manager at Ford Motor Co. to support his family.
He clicked with Calderon-Dillon. “I felt that he would do what he could to make sure the kidney stayed healthy once he had it.”
With her recipient selected, Calderon-Dillon went to work at expediting the process. After all, it was late spring and she needed to get this done so she could be well enough to resume college in the fall.
“It can take a year to a year-and-a-half normally, but I made it happy very quickly,” she said. “From the day I met Bharat (her recipient) till the day I donated, it was three months and a day.”
Calderon-Dillon had initial lab tests done locally, then stayed in constant contact with the medical team to make sure they had what they needed, when they needed it. Bharat did the same from his side. In the latter stages, Calderon-Dillon traveled 2000 miles for final lab screenings and a psychological evaluation as the last step before the donation surgery. Throughout the process, she and Bharat connected via phone and Facebook, but their first face-to-face meeting was just one month prior to the surgery.
That was nearly two years ago. They still stay in touch on Facebook. She asks how his kidney is doing. “It’s not mine any more, it’s his. He did name it after me though, so that’s something to be excited about.”
Some people are happiest when they are helping others. Calderon-Dillon is one of those. In July, she will be supporting her mom who will be riding an ElliptiGO bike in her second Seattle to Portland tour. “I would really like to be riding it with her, and I will again one day, but I just had my gall bladder removed and won’t be able to ride this year. I enjoy riding my ElliptiGO with Mom. We talk and bond as we’re riding. I like the camaraderie aspect of riding.”
After that, beyond spending time with her family and fulfilling her local volunteer duties, what’s in store for Calderon-Dillon?
“I’m looking for the next big thing that I can do for someone else. I don’t really have any more organs that I can give away, but I’ll think of something. I’m considering going into the Air Force as an officer after I get my degree. I really admire military people and families, and that’s something I could do to serve my country. That’s definitely more than one person that I could potentially help.”
The next time you open up Google to look for something on the internet, think about searching for “incredible human being.” We’re sure you’ll find Kia Calderon-Dillon.