How a News Segment Moved a Woman to Donate Her Kidney to a Stranger

An NYPD officer needed a kidney transplant. Hundreds of miles away, a woman named Sophia Jackson saw the story on the news and decided to help. Now Jackson is inspiring others with her story of altruistic organ donation.

Sophia Jackson on the day of her donation surgery (left) and back at work after donating through the National Kidney Registry’s Voucher Program (right).

Last December, Sophia Jackson was watching the news when she saw the story of Vadrien Alston, a New York City police officer and mother of two who was in need of a kidney transplant. Jackson was so moved by the story that she decided to travel to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center to help.

“I never really thought about donating a kidney until I saw a person in need,” says Jackson, whose story was shared on CBS New York. “Who knew a small news clip could have such an impact on my life?”

Shortly after seeing the story, Jackson began making phone calls to initiate the process of becoming an organ donor. Although she intended to donate her kidney to Alston, Jackson’s bloodwork soon proved she wasn’t a direct donor match. In her donation journey, she met Steve Wilson, who had donated his kidney to a stranger in 2020 at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Wilson was a touchstone for Jackson throughout her donor experience.

“I called Steve, crying,” Jackson says of learning she wasn’t a match for the officer. “But he assured me that this wasn’t the end, and that I could still help Vadrien, if I wanted. So my transplant team, Steve, and I [began talking] about the National Kidney Registry Voucher Program.”

Dr. Joseph Del Pizzo

Jackson learned that she could enter the National Kidney Registry’s Voucher Program, which would allow her to donate her kidney on the officer’s behalf. Once Jackson donated her kidney to a patient who was a match, Alston would receive a voucher, and the organization would work to find a compatible donor. This process dramatically decreased Alston’s wait time for a new kidney.

“Sophia was extremely motivated to help others, and approached her donation and procedure in a very thoughtful manner,” says Dr. Joseph Del Pizzo, a urologist and living donor surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Her altruistic gift not only assisted the intended recipient, but also the patient who received her kidney that day, as well as countless other recipients on the organ transplant waiting list.”

On October 11, Jackson donated her kidney at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. In the weeks since her procedure, Jackson has resumed the activities she’s always loved. “My life after the donation has been the same,” Jackson says. Except now she has a new passion: Raising awareness of living kidney donation. “The National Kidney Registry’s Voucher Program is a lifesaver,” she says.

Jackson’s passion will likely continue to have a positive impact. “Sophia is one amazing lady, and I was proud to be a part of her journey,” says Aliza Perrin Zubov, R.N., a living donor transplant coordinator at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “By educating others about the process, she can help encourage people to do what she’s done for another individual.”

Watch Sophia Jackson’s story here.

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