She felt helpless as she watched friends and family members struggle with terminal illness. Lindsey Jarrett decided then that if she could, she would help someone in need so she donated a kidney. This is the story of the life of a giver.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
She refers to her decision as “walking a winding road.” Three years ago, Lindsey Jarrett’s middle school teacher was battling cancer. Over the years, the teacher had become a close friend. As the cancer spread throughout her friend’s body Jarrett stood by helplessly knowing there was nothing she could do. Her friend needed a transplant but was rejected due to the invasive cancer.
“When she passed, I told myself ‘if the opportunity ever presents itself, no matter what, I will donate for the sake of saving someone’s life,’” said Jarrett. She made good on that promise when she learned on social media that the father of a friend of a friend needed a kidney transplant.
That “father of a friend of a friend” was Poopalasingham “Pete” Poovendran. He was also a husband, to Rekha, who immigrated to the United States from Sri Lanka more than 40 years ago. He spent most of his life working as an anesthesiologist. At the age of 73, he was settled in Mishawaka, Ind. where he enjoys gardening, golfing, reading, and flying his Piper Archer around the country.
In 1991, Poovendran was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease. Overtime, his kidneys began to shut down. He needed a transplant.
Poovendran’s, daughter, Dilkushi Poovendran, 36, and a son, Gayan Poovendran, 39, posted on Facebook their father’s need for a new kidney. A mutual friend shared the post with Jarrett, 39.
A resident of Kansas City, Mo. Jarrett and Poovendran were separated by nearly 600 miles but in time they would be joined by a single kidney.
Poovendran was in the care of IU Health nephrologist Dr. Bruce A. Molitoris. Jarrett had never been to IU Health until late 2020 when she made her decision to begin testing as a donor.
Married to her husband, Nick, since 2013, Jarrett is the mother to a 7-year-old daughter. She is also an altruistic giver.
“I spent a lot of time talking about it with my husband and parents, but it just felt right,” said Jarrett. As she talks about her decision, she modestly reveals something about that walk along the “winding road” that started in her childhood.
“I was raised with a philanthropic altruistic philosophy – the spirit of giving is in lots of aspects of my life,” said Jarrett. She was reluctant to give specifics, maintaining humility, but with urging, she described her personal and professional journey. In 2013 she and her husband, a professional musician, traveled to Uganda and founded “Music Across Borders.” The non-profit charity’s mission is providing sustainable music education to people around the world. One of their first projects was “Strings for Uganda” providing music education to children living in an orphanage in Kajjansi, Uganda.
In her youth, Jarrett volunteered at Kansas City-based “Operation Breakthrough.” The program provides a safe educational environment for children in need. The program provides weekday care for 700 children – ages 6 to 14. More than 80 percent of those children are from families living below federal poverty guidelines.
Later in life, after obtaining her master’s degree, Jarrett returned as a staff member of “Operation Breakthrough.”
“It’s important for me to be in the community doing work. I’m a boots-on-the-ground person,” said Jarrett, who has professional training working in the disability community. She went on to receive her doctorate in therapeutic science. She now works as a principal investigator, a social scientist dedicated to clinical research, for the Center for Practical Bioethics. The non-profit is dedicated to raising and responding to ethical questions in healthcare.
From a young age, Jarrett said her heart has been pulled toward helping others.
“My parents raised us in church environment and around volunteer work. My mom was part of a volunteer organization and when I was a kid I remember her dragging me to these things. It really opened my eyes to people living outside my bubble. Growing up in a very giving family made me who I am today,” said Jarrett.
And on Nov. 19, 2021 that “giving heart” was extended to a stranger. Jarrett became an altruistic kidney donor. In the care of Dr. William Goggins, that man who was a stranger received Jarrett’s kidney – the gift of life.
Typically, donors and recipients do not meet immediately after transplant. But Jarrett’s parents were with her in the hospital and fate played out. Jarrett’s mom and dad shared a waiting room with Poovendran’s wife and daughter. Through contact with Poovendran’s son, they learned the donor and recipient were just doors away from each other on the same floor at IU Health University Hospital’s transplant unit.
“They asked if I could come to his room and we just went with it,” said Jarrett. When his eyes met his donor, Poovendran began to cry as he thanked her.
“I said ‘I’m really happy I could give this to you and you could have more time with people you love,’” said Jarrett. “I just wanted to make someone’s life better.”