Dr. Gaynier’s Generous Living Organ Donation Helps a Fellow Community Member

Mar 20 2023

Christine “Chris” Gaynier, MD, has been serving as a family medicine physician at Mercy Health – Lima West Family Medicine for more than a decade. When she first joined our ministry in 2010, she felt both her personal and professional values aligned closely with the organization, and she’s continued serving her patients and the community ever since.

Dr. Gaynier knew she wanted to become a family physician from an early age. Her family doctor, who actually practiced with Mercy Health for decades, was someone who inspired her, and an interest in medicine was sparked. She was later able to shadow that provider at Mercy Health in the early days of her career. Dr. Gaynier admired the way he practiced medicine and he encouraged her to pursue it.

One day, during Lent in 2022, Dr. Gaynier came across a plea from a member of her community about a local teenager (pictured above, left) who was in need of a living kidney donation. Her devout Catholic faith prompted her to pursue testing, as did her desire to be a good role model for her three children.

As fate would have it, Dr. Gaynier ended up being a match. With her family’s support, she made the decision to pursue a living kidney donation.

“Being a living kidney donor has allowed me to live out my Catholic faith in a very real and tangible way,” Dr. Gaynier explains. “I would encourage anyone who is able to consider a living kidney donation. I have always believed in servant leadership, and I hope that my kids see an example of that when they look at me.”

In honor of National Doctors’ Day coming up on March 30, we usually highlight some of our physicians. However, for her, Dr. Gaynier wanted us to shine a light on the organ donation process in hopes that someone else might be prompted to pursue testing and help change someone’s life, just like she was.

To help raise awareness about living kidney donation and demystify what that process looks like, we spoke with Dr. Gaynier, who shared in her own words below.

“Going into this process I had very little anxiety about it, and that was especially the case since things went so smoothly and quickly for me. It really seemed like everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and I was even more sure it was the right thing to do.”

As for what the testing process like, Dr. Gaynier had this to share.

“I was able to do most of my initial testing locally, which included preliminary lab testing and 24-hour blood pressure monitoring. When those test results came back, I was asked to go to Ohio State University (OSU) for a full day of evaluations, which included lab testing, imaging of my kidneys, some cardiac and lung testing, and meetings with the transplant surgeon, transplant coordinator, nephrologist, donor advocate and social worker.”

She continues, “my husband and I were able to learn a lot about the process of living kidney donation that day and they were able to learn a lot about me as well. Donor approval committees at both OSU and Nationwide Children’s Hospital then approved me to be a li0ving kidney donor for Will. The entire approval process took about two to three months. Also, this process has made me much more aware of what patients experience when they undergo surgery or hospitalization. Stepping out of the doctor role and into the patient role was certainly different for me.”

When Dr. Gaynier found out she was a match, she was ecstatic.

“I was able to call Will’s mom to give her the good news. I’ll never forget how good it felt to be able to make that phone call.”

Overall, the transplant recovery process went smoothly for Dr. Gaynier.

“I was able to be discharged from the hospital just two days after surgery. I recovered at home and was able to return to work about three weeks after surgery. Since surgery, I have been able to get back to walking, running and traveling.”

Dr. Gaynier would like people who maybe considering living kidney donation to help another in need to know the following.

“I would encourage anyone who is healthy and willing to donate to consider living kidney donation. The outcomes for recipients of living kidney donors are far superior to those who receive cadaveric kidneys, and it isn’t necessary to be an exact match. I think that more people would consider living kidney donation if they knew this.”

She adds, “my recipient and I matched in blood type only! It is an amazing experience to be able to help improve someone’s quality of life in such a unique way and then build a relationship with them afterward. My recipient and I communicate on a regular basis, and it feels great to know that he’s doing so well.”

As for final thoughts from Dr. Gaynier?

“The most exciting part of being a living kidney donor is being able to play a part in significantly improving someone’s quality of life through medical science, the teamwork of a lot of wonderful medical professionals, faith and a little luck. I have really enjoyed getting to know Will during our hospitalization and since surgery. He’s an exceptional young man that I hope can now live his life the way he wants to.”

Read more National Doctors’ Day stories celebrating our physicians.

Also, do you have a Mercy Health physician who has made a difference in your life? Send them a message of appreciation.

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