Former Softball Player Donates Her Kidney to Family Member

Pam Carlson

Pam Carlson donates kidney to her aunt

CHICAGO, IL (January 26, 2009) – Pam Carlson will be forever known by North Park softball fans as the player who hit a home run in her first collegiate at-bat. But those closer to the former outfielder (who played at the University from 2003-2005) will know that she gave of herself to save the life of a family member.

In December of 2008, Carlson donated one of her kidneys to her Aunt Karla, who was facing kidney failure.

“My aunt had a kidney transplant more than 30 years ago, when she was in her early 20s,” Carlson explains. “In the back of all of our minds there was the understanding that it wouldn't last forever. A few years ago . . . my aunt mentioned that she was 'going back on the list', meaning she was at the point where she needed to be ready for another kidney transplant.”

Ultimately, donating her own kidney to her aunt was a decision that Carlson didn’t think twice about. “I think I had made the decision that I wanted to donate before I knew if I would be able to,” she says.

When Carlson, who is currently working on her Master's of Divinity, saw her aunt during Christmas of 2007, she witnessed firsthand the debilitating effects of a deteriorating kidney. So the following spring, she began the process of becoming a donor.

“I started talking with friends and family about the whole idea and asked what they thought,” says Carlson, who got tested to see if she was a match. “I remember waiting for a phone call to hear about the results, hoping and praying that we'd be a match. . . . After hearing that we were, I had to go through an extensive physical and more testing to see if I was healthy enough to donate.”

When Carlson received the go ahead and the surgery date was set for December 12, she admits, “I felt both relief and a little anxiety.” Fortunately, not only was the surgery itself successful, but her aunt’s body also accepted the transplant. Carlson, too, has since made a full recovery and has been doing well since.

Overall, the experience was a much more stressful than any softball game that she’d ever competed in.

“Coach (Dan) Gooris always introduces me to people saying 'you know at her first college at-bat, Pam hit a home-run,’” says Carlson. “Yes I did . . . but the irony is that I didn't hit another home run for the rest of my softball career at NPU.” When it comes to being a kidney donor and giving her aunt a better quality of life, Carlson says emphatically, “This has been more incredible than hitting that home run.”