Amber Daniel’s journey to becoming a living kidney donor began while streaming an episode of the Netflix series Dogs. She found herself inspired by the story of Michael Kaltenmark, the handler for Butler University’s bulldog mascot Trip. Michael needed a kidney transplant because of complications from Crohn’s disease. As family, friends, and complete strangers stepped forward to offer him their kidney if they were a match, Amber was moved by their generosity and motivated by the knowledge that a stranger with healthy kidneys could become a living donor and give the gift of renewed life to another person.
“I knew that you have the opportunity to donate after you die,” Amber says, “but I didn’t know you could be a living donor.”
After seeing the show, she embarked on her own research into living donation – the details of testing and the procedure, which hospitals performed living donor surgeries, recovery time, and the typical length of time for a match.
“When she told me that she wanted to do it and that she’d done all this research,” her mother and caregiver Dawn says, “I was so much more worried about it than she was. But I also knew she’s 31 years old and its entirely up to her.”
For Amber, the experience of her sister, Emily, who was hospitalized for two weeks with a kidney infection that became septic provided her with perspective and purpose.
“Thinking back on that, you realize that is just a drop in the ocean compared to what these families have to go through when waiting for a kidney. We were so worried about Emily that I can’t imagine what families waiting for months or longer were going through.”
But she knew she wanted to give a person back their life if she could.
After three trips from her home north of Dayton, Ohio to University Hospitals for testing, Amber was approved to be matched with a compatible recipient. She and her mom expected to be waiting three to five months before she received the call to donate.
“The matching was fast. They called me literally one week later.”
Prior to her surgery, Amber and Dawn stayed at a hotel half an hour from University Hospital’s main campus that offered a discounted rate. While the hotel was more affordable than those near the hospital, they both felt they would be more at ease during Amber’s recovery if they were closer to UH. After their final pre-op appointment, they visited Transplant House just a short walk from the hospital.
“This is actually the same apartment we toured,” Dawn says of their studio apartment on the second floor of building 2. “It’s peaceful – it’s wonderful. Having the weekly meals, a nice, working kitchen, and being within a block of the hospital is just perfect.”
“Worst case scenario,” Amber adds, “we knew we could just turn the corner at the end of the street and be at the hospital. It’s a big difference from being half an hour away.”
Dawn remembers after her tour crossing her fingers that they would be able to stay at Transplant House during and after Amber’s surgery instead of at a hotel. They were anticipating the need for a stay of a week or two until she received the ok from her transplant team to head home.
Of the person who received her kidney, Amber knows very little – but she does know they are doing well and that she was able to change another person’s life through her choice.
Amber and Dawn ultimately stayed at Transplant House for 8 nights. Like Amber’s match, her clearance to return home came sooner than expected. But while they were here, their apartment felt like a welcome refuge all their own. Whether cooking meals in the kitchen or enjoying a take-out dinner with visiting family members from Akron, the Daniels were able to create a routine and rhythm that felt more like being at home. They could go outside and get fresh air on the porch, walk the neighborhood, and visit with Benson, who made missing her two dogs back home a little easier for Amber.
“Amber is a very caring, loving, and giving individual,” her mom says. “I’m glad I could be here to support her and that we were able to stay here during her recovery.”