When Jena Thomas, a health services administration major, heard that her mother had kidney failure in 2004, she knew immediately that she wanted to help. But since Jena was a minor, her mother would not consent to her donating a kidney because she feared the impact it would have on Jena and her health later in life.

None of Jena’s relatives were considered a good match for the donation, so her mother relied on dialysis treatments to keep her alive. Finally, in 2010, her name was added to the list of hopeful recipients for a kidney donation, but no good news came. About three years ago, her mother quit work because it became too hard on her to keep up with her treatments and work.

“I wanted a better life for her,” Jena said. “I always wanted to help her. If I could live with just one kidney, why not?”

This year, Jena’s mom changed her mind when she heard of another young adult who donated his kidney to his mother and was living a very healthy and active life.

“She finally agreed to let me even test to find out if I was a good match, and it turns out I was a perfect match,” Jena said.

In August, Jena headed to Miami’s Jackson Memorial hospital for the procedure and spent about a week and a half recovering along with her mother.

Jena says the donation has changed her life for the better, not just knowing that she has provided a better life for her mother, but for her own health, as well.

“I have to watch my sodium and alcohol intake,” Jena said, “which is a healthier lifestyle, anyhow, so that’s a good thing.”

Jena encourages anyone who has the opportunity to impact another’s life through organ donation to take the opportunity.

“If you can go on to continue living a healthy and happy life, the pain you experience for a few weeks is a small price to pay for the better life you give to someone else,” she said.

As for Jena’s mother, she is doing well and recently started working again.