NATICK, Mass. – Sometimes perfect strangers make a perfect match. A Facebook flyer led Amelia Lipton – a budget analyst in the G-8 at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC – to give a kidney to David Sellers, someone she had never met.
Before meeting Sellers, Lipton frequently donated time and money to charities/causes that she believed in. The pandemic, combined with the reality of a divided nation and troubling world events, made Lipton want to do more.
“I wanted to do something more tangible to help my fellow human beings, given all the suffering I saw going on both locally and globally,” said Lipton. “I kept thinking of the Gandhi quote: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ It was then that I stumbled across a Facebook post.”
Sellers’ wife had created a flyer that was then posted on Facebook by her coworker. The flyer included information about Sellers, who suffers from a disease called ADPKD (Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease), and how he needed a kidney transplant.
“I had never even considered donating an organ before,” said Lipton. “But something inside of me just said ‘I could do that.’”
Sellers thinks that Lipton is an angel, and most people would agree.
“To find out a complete stranger was willing to donate an organ filled me with joy and redeemed my faith in my fellow humans,” said Sellers, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. “At no time did I want to apply any type of pressure, and I always let her know that I would completely understand if she was having second thoughts. While she had questions, she never wavered from her commitment.”
Prior to April of 1999 (when he found his biological family), Sellers had never heard of ADPKD. One of the very first things his biological family asked him about was his kidneys.
Before his transplant, his illness and his being on dialysis took a toll on his body and health. He was frequently fatigued and was always cold. His enlarged kidneys caused bouts of vomiting and he lost weight.
“Since the transplant, I've been able to eat to the point where I’ve put on 20 lbs.,” said Sellers. “I no longer deal with nausea or vomiting, and I am better able to stay awake.”
Prior to her operation, Lipton, who is the mother of a young child, did her research and found out that living kidney donation is relatively safe, but there is a risk of some post-surgical complications. Potential donors go through a lot of preparation and testing to find out if they are a match and then to ensure that they are healthy.
She wants people to know that the federal government offers an important benefit to organ donors.
“One of the amazing benefits I received was up to 30 days of free administrative leave for organ donation,” said Lipton. “This is such an amazing benefit that the federal government offers its employees, and I wouldn't have been able to do this without that benefit. So, I'm really grateful.”
Her initial recovery wasn’t easy, and she later developed an incisional hernia, a common complication from being a kidney donor. A little over a year later, however, Lipton is feeling well and says she would do it all again without hesitation.
“I feel pretty great,” said Lipton. “I have a deep joy in knowing that I directly helped my fellow human being. And I have a crazy scar to prove it! I think of it as a badge of honor.”
Lipton hopes that by telling her story that people will be encouraged to become blood, bone marrow, or organ donors. She noted that if more people agreed to donate their organs post-mortem, the need for living donors would be reduced.
She said that people interested in becoming a living kidney donor should do their research. The National Kidney Foundation is a great resource ( https://www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors ). They can also join the Facebook group Living Kidney Donors Support Group. Anyone seriously considering being a living donor can also reach out directly to Lipton, who will gladly share her experiences.
“I now try to be an advocate for organ donation – both living and deceased – as there are approximately 100,000 people on the donor list waiting for a kidney at any given time in the United States,” said Lipton. “Sadly, about 13 people die each day waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.”
Sellers considers himself fortunate for so many reasons.
“Having spent the first 10 years of my life in foster care, I felt I had a guardian angel watching over me because my life could have gone wrong in so many ways,” said Sellers.
Both Sellers and Lipton are glad that their paths crossed.
“Though we didn't know each other beforehand, we are now good friends,” said Lipton.
“She has a friend for life in me,” said Sellers. “She is now a dear, dear friend and an extension of my family.”
About DEVCOM Soldier Center: The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers are also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.