A different kind of hill to climb

VISIONS magazine readers may remember a story back in summer 2006 about a young alum from Oelwein, Iowa, who bicycled 4,000 miles across the United States to raise money for cancer. That young man, Tyler Weig (’05 community health education), now 30, was in the news again in January for another extraordinary feat: donating a healthy kidney to a stranger.


Weig’s humanitarian act set off a chain of transplants at Des Moines’ Mercy Medical Center. A headline in the Jan. 12 Des Moines Register proclaimed “Five people get transplants thanks to one man’s desire to help others.” VISIONS spoke with Weig a week after the surgery:

What made you decide to donate a kidney to a stranger?
There are nearly 95,000 people in America, and more than 500 in Iowa, that are currently waiting for a new kidney and, ultimately, the new lease on life that a healthy kidney would bring to them.  The more I learned about organ donation, specifically living kidney donation, the more I wanted to become involved.

What was the process like?
I worked with the Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa.  All potential donors are required to meet with a variety of medical personnel and complete a variety of physical and psychological tests.  The surgery lasted 3-4 hours and I was in the hospital for 3 nights.  Overall, I found the experience to be medically professional and personally rewarding.

How do you feel now?
I feel better each and every day.  I’m going to take some time to make sure I recover completely and then I’ll get back to living the same active lifestyle I enjoyed prior to surgery.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering donating an organ while they’re still living?
Knowledge is power. If someone is considering becoming a living donor, they should make sure they have their questions answered by trained medical professionals. Beyond that, I would advise them to look into their heart and see the possibility that they, themselves, possess to save another person’s life.

The world is full of wonderfully miraculous opportunities to join together to create something greater than ourselves.  I’m so lucky to be just one part of the tremendous team of doctors, nurses, social workers, hospital staff, family, friends, caregivers, media, strangers, donors, recipients, supporters, etc.etc. etc. that made last week’s kidney donation chain a reality.  I’m in awe of the amount of support that I have received and I’ll do my best to show others the same love and support as they pursue all of their dreams.

About this story | Interview by Carole Gieseke, editor, VISIONS magazine. Originally published in Young Alumni News Feb. 20, 2013.

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