Waiting for a Kidney
Fort Worth, Texas
Jill Kolb isn’t letting a rare kidney disease stop her from helping as many people as she can.
She and her husband, John, are raising two girls (ages 13 and 6) as well as working full time at their respective jobs and working at their ranch. Jill also acts as the “ultimate cheer mom and Uber driver,” taxiing and supporting her daughters at multiple events throughout the week. She’s the founder and president of the Giving Gracefully Foundation, a small nonprofit providing financial support for people facing unforeseen circumstances, such as illness, death or job loss. She also volunteers as president of the Vista Ranch Home Owners Association, a board member for Northwest ISD Education Foundation and as an Ambassador of Hope for LifeGift.
On top of all that, Jill and her family frequently give to others in multiple ways – most of the time anonymously, a tradition started by Jill’s mother who died from kidney failure in 2014.
“I find that I’m more productive, and it makes my heart happier, when I’m able to help someone else – no matter how big or small,” Jill said. “It also helps me stay grounded and realize I’m not the only person in the world with obstacles to overcome.”
Those obstacles aren’t small. Jill is the fourth person in her family to need a kidney transplant due to what doctors believe is thin basement membrane disease (TBMN) – a hereditary condition which prevents the kidneys from filtering blood properly. Jill initially had a living donor lined up whom she was sure would be a match. He wasn’t. They tested two other people close to Jill; neither was a match.
In January 2018, after being sick for several days, Jill poured out her heart on Facebook. She didn’t ask for a donor; she simply explained all the challenges she’d been facing. Then, to her amazement, more than 50 people filled out the initial survey to see if they could be living donors – some were people she hadn’t seen in 20 years.
“It was an overwhelming feeling that I had that many people that were literally willing to give me a piece of them. I couldn’t even respond … How do you even begin to say thank you for the offer of that kind of gift?”
So far, 26 of those friends have been tested, but still, no matches have been found.
With a B+ blood type and a high PRA score (which means she has antibodies against about 92 percent of the population), Jill is especially hard to match. The estimated wait for a deceased donor is seven years. Jill doesn’t let it discourage her.
“Nothing has ever come easy for me and finding my match won’t be either. But that’s okay. Anything worth having is worth working for. I want to be that success story that everyone heard about – the one that defied ALL odds!”
Her hopes for the future are simple.
“Like so many others, I want to see my girls grow up. To graduate. To watch them walk down the aisle when they get married. To grow old with my husband. Hopefully someday, even enjoy my grandkids.”
Meanwhile, Jill doesn’t sit by waiting – she’s always living and giving to others.
“My faith gets me through each day and pushes me forward. I know that God has His hand in this, and that He has a plan. I also know that while I can’t change the course set for me, I don’t have to sit by idly and watch life pass me by.”