3 University of Alabama law school students donate kidneys

Published 6:57 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

Three University of Alabama law school students are using this holiday season as a reason to share information about a gift they gave that had life-saving implications for their recipients.

Angelica Mamani, Katrina Smith and Ryne Smith recently donated kidneys to people they had previously never met.

“I’ve always felt that if I have an opportunity to do something for someone else, and I can, then I should,” Mamani said during a Dec. 9 news conference at UA’s School of Law.

All three students decided separately to become organ donors and discovered the UAB Kidney Center’s non-directed donor program to help them fulfill their plans. According to the kidney center, more than 2,200 Alabamians are in need of a kidney transplant.

Mamani, 32 was in her first year of law school at UA when she began considering organ donation. She previously registered as a “Be the Match” bone marrow donor, but never had the opportunity to donate. She then became interested in kidney donation and began the candidacy process at UAB Kidney Center. The process requires a rigorous series of medical testing and screening.

In January 2020, Mamani received a call to begin the donation process. She was approved in the summer of 2020 and matched with her recipient, Lakiesha Stubbs of Birmingham. On Aug. 6, 2020, Mamani donated her left kidney to Stubbs and they met for the first time after surgery.

Though the recovery process was far from easy, according to Mamani, the now third-year law student said she would redo the donation process “in a heartbeat.”

“It is possibly the most profound experience of your life,” Mamani said. “Even without getting to know my recipient beforehand, it has made me a better person in so many ways. It’s opened up opportunities for growth and positive impact in the world.”

Katrina Smith, 25 and Ryne Smith, 30 began considering kidney donation during the same summer that Mamani donated her kidney. The Smiths, who met while in school, were inspired by an audiobook, “Against Empathy” by Paul Bloom, which discusses effective altruism. The book aims to identify the most effective ways to improve the world.

Katrina Smith and Ryne Smith, both third-year law students, began researching their options and discovered the UAB Kidney Center. Similar to Mamani, the pair had to undergo a series of tests and screenings before being approved for the kidney donation.

In May 2021, the Smiths went into surgery one day apart from each other.

For privacy reasons, the entire process is anonymous until after the surgery. But in the end, all three UA law students met their kidney recipients.

Ryne Smith donated his left kidney to Sarita Whitney, who had been waiting on for a transplant since January.

Ryne Smith said he decided to go through with the donation after learning more about how many people need kidneys and realizing that he could potentially save a life.

“Based on the amount of effort that I would have to go through in order to change that person’s life, I’ve considered it a no-brainer. I made that decision right then and there that if, if I was able to do that I would,” Ryne Smith said.

Katrina Smith donated her right kidney to Kim Gilmore. The two often stay in touch and tell their experiences on Facebook.
“I think that I’m most proud to be the kind of person who would see that I can give up two weeks of my life to extend someone else’s life 10 to 27 years. That’s the kind of person I wanted to be ever since I was little,” Katrina Smith said.

All three students are expected to graduate in May 2022 from UA’s School of Law and are now preparing for finals.

There are several ways to become an organ donor, including joining a state’s organ donor list or registering when obtaining a driver’s license. For more information about organ donation, got the federal organ donation website at www.organdonor.gov/sign-up.