Vt. kidney donor to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 5:13 PM EST
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HINESBURG, Vt. (WCAX) - A Hinesburg woman is gearing up to hike Africa’s highest peak, and she should be up there just in time for World Kidney Day.

Hinesburg’s Maureen Murphy would not describe herself as an ‘overly generous’ person, but some people might not believe that. Three years ago, an acquaintance needed a kidney. She threw her name on a list of potential donors and thought nothing else of it.

“And she was becoming more desperate for a kidney, so I reached out again and said, ‘Hey, I really want to see if this is something I can do,’ and started going through the process -- which requires a lot of blood tests, chest x-rays, all sorts of tests as you can imagine,” Murphy said.

She was determined to be healthy enough to donate. “And they said, ‘You’re a match!’ We started to go through the process -- brought before the committee, they set a surgery date. And then they did one more test and found out she would likely reject my kidney,” Murphy said.

Devastated, Murphy was presented with another option. Donate to a stranger and get her friend moved to the top of the list. In April 2021, she underwent surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Now, 10 months out of recovery, she’s still not positive about why she was so willing to go through the process. “I talk to a lot of people that are donors now through some Facebook groups. But a lot of people just suddenly feel this calling like, ‘I think I’m the person that can do that,’” Murphy said.

She saw that one of those Facebook groups, Living Donor Adventures, is hosting a One Kidney Climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, towering some 19,000 feet in Tanzania.

Despite her friends and family thinking she’s nuts, Murphy is all in. “Not that I’m a big athlete, but I do a bit of hiking, I do a bit of running, I’ve always been kind of active and outdoorsy,” she said, although she says her jaunts up and down the Long Trail pale in comparison. “That was supposed to be my big hiking goal but it’s kinda been superseded by Kilimanjaro.”

The hike will take eight days and she’ll be accompanied by dozens of people making the same trek, some donors, some survivors, and some doctors. And while it’s a personal feat, the goal is to show that even people who are down one kidney can still make it to the top and to raise awareness for people to get tested for kidney donation.

“I don’t know, what I was telling my friends is that I guess I want to do something that scares me every year from now on -- excites me and scares me. So, last year I donated a kidney, this year I’ll climb a mountain. and we’ll see what’s next,” Murphy said.

Murphy leaves for Kilimanjaro in just under one month. She says she’s getting support from Vermont companies and that she and the rest of the group will be accompanied by guides and porters along the way.