Principal's kidney donation for former student on-hold

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A Bay Area principal was set to donate her kidney to a former student on Friday, but that procedure is now on hold.

On Thursday UCSF Medical Center announced it was voluntarily suspending its living donor program for kidney transplants. The decision follows the death after donation of a kidney donor last month. 

In a story about Christmas’ spirit of giving; sometimes the best gifts are the ones you won’t find under the tree.

“It’s a gift freely given and I’m happy to give,” said Christine Buell, vice principal at Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. She’s been preparing to give the ultimate gift to a former student, Kelvin Sanders.

“These are all the different medications,” Sanders said as he sorts through a stockpile of his prescriptions. Right now Kelvin’s life is measured in pills. “It was a tough pill to swallow,” he said about receiving his life-threatening diagnosis last year.

A stand-out student and athlete, Sanders was diagnosed with end stage renal disease, which is why his kidneys failed, but doctors don’t know why.

His focus changed from fighting for yardage on the football field, to fighting for his life. Every night he hooks up a lifeline to a dialysis machine where a nightstand should be at his bedside. The family’s apartment is a warehouse of medical supplies.

“It’s tough, but you know, God has a plan.”

The family started a Facebook page to find him a donor. It turned out he knew the donor all along.

“She gave me the best Christmas gift anyone could ask for,” Sanders said.

“I’m glad he can use my gently used kidney,” said Buell, but that was until she got the call from UCSF about the donor program’s suspension that left her in tears. The transplant would have to be postponed.

“It’ll happen when it needs to happen,” Buell said over the phone. The procedure is being rescheduled.

“I hope it gives him all the options he wants," she said.

It’s already given him something priceless.

“It’s given me hope. There’s still nice people out there,” he said.

UCSF said in a statement that voluntary suspension is common if the donor dies and that the safety and well-being of patients is their top priority.