How one woman’s selfless act to donate a kidney led her to the top of the world

kidney donor hikers at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

In 2021 Maureen Murphy answered the call to give a part of herself–literally. When she found out her friend Kim Moulton needed a kidney transplant, she offered to be her donor. “I had everything I needed in life, so I thought this was something I could do to help,” Maureen says. She contacted the Dartmouth Hitchcock Transplant center, where Kim was a patient of Michael Daily, MD, section chief of Solid Organ Transplantation at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, and told them she wanted to donate one of her kidneys to Kim.

After months of testing, they learned that Maureen’s kidney wasn’t a match. But that didn’t stop Maureen’s desire to help. Maureen was still willing to donate her kidney to a different donor as part of a kidney registry voucher program. Her donation would, in turn, provide a voucher for Kim to receive a kidney from a viable donor—which she received in September of 2022, 5 months after Maureen’s donation surgery.

Maureen wanted to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation. In her connections with other donors, she learned of sponsored a hike for donors to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. The idea was to raise awareness for organ donation and prove all the amazing things you can still do after donating a kidney. An avid hiker, Maureen was instantly on board for the next hike.

picture of Maureen Murphy
Maureen Murphy

Just shy of a year after donating, Maureen gathered at the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro with other organ donors and their supporters, ready to hike the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. And on March 9, 2023, World Kidney Day, they made it to the 19,341-foot summit.

“It was a fantastic experience. The best part was forging incredible friendships with others on a similar journey. We shared our stories and lives together, and I consider them all family now,” says Maureen. “It was incredible to think about all we were capable of, traveling this road together with different physical or emotional challenges. We are already talking about what we want to do next to continue to raise awareness.”

Kim kept watch on the GPS tracker website showing the group’s progress and the sponsoring UNOS Facebook page. She kept family and friends of Maureen’s up to date on the group’s progress. She also downloaded a walking challenge for her phone that mimicked the trail up Kilimanjaro, walking little by little on her treadmill in sync with Maureen’s trek on the other side of the world. “I am so grateful for Maureen’s support. Even though I didn’t get her kidney, she supported me throughout the entire process. It changed both our lives in so many ways,” says Kim. “I’m very proud of her and wish I could have been there with her. It’s such an awesome thing she did to raise awareness for something so important.”

Watch this video to hear more about Maureen's story.