Posted on Jun 4, 2013 in Polycystic Kidney Disease | 0 comments


In 1977 when Tinley Park resident Kathy Mahoney was roughly 20-years-old, she made the choice to donate her kidney to her brother, Dan, who was then only 14, and told by doctors that his kidneys had stopped growing.

Thirty-five years later, both are in good health, and after doing some research, Kathy found and read a book on the subject that changed her life. Just last week, on Wednesday, April 17, she got the opportunity to meet he author of “The Reluctant Donor,” Suzanne Ruff at The Tinley Park Public Library, which for her, meant something truly special.

“When I saw she’d be coming to the library I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh this is the woman that when I read her book I cried [because] it was so well written and so pertinent to what I experienced,” Mahoney said. “She’s just been really a kind of hero to me.”

As April is Donate Life Month, the library welcomed Chicago native and author Ruff, to share her lifechanging decision and story about organ donation.

Before the event, Mahoney had passed along the book to friend Tammy Shoemaker, also a Tinley resident, who was faced with the same decision that she had faced years ago.

“Since Suzanne’s book, ‘The Reluctant Donor,’ had such an impact on me, I bought a copy for Tammy prior to her transplant,” Mahoney said. “Tammy thought that it was a wonderful book and helped her through the transplant process. The book just grabbed me; it was the use of the words and the emotions of what you go through.”

Ruff’s book served as both a form of healing for Mahoney and gave her a sense of closure, as she said back in the 1970s when she gave up her organ there weren’t many outlets for her in terms of being able to discuss it.

“It was so difficult in ‘77 because there wasn’t any interest, any support groups, there was nothing,” she said. “My purpose was to tell [Ruff] the difference that she made in my life. It was very healing for me because with what I experienced, I didn’t talk to anybody about what went on. It was such a great feeling for me, like the closing of those emotions.”

Ruff said that as the book’s author, her favorite compliment is when people say they laugh, cry and laugh again when they read about her family’s battle with kidney disease.

“That is what life is,” she said. “We laugh, cry, and laugh again. It is a book to honor those who went before us.”

In the spirit of Donate Life Month, Mahoney said she encourages all to read Ruff’s book as well as put their name on a list to be considered as an organ donor.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said. “It was that rewarding, it truly was.”

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