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A lifelong tie

It was a split-second decision that changed two lives.

Seven years ago, Aaron Elson, an analyst with Parkview Medical Center’s information technology department, heard an old high school friend was in need of a kidney.

“He was a guy who everybody looked up to.” Elson said. “We played sports together. He was smart, got good grades, he was somebody I looked up to.”Aaron and his children

But Elson’s quick decision to get tested as a possible kidney donor didn’t hinge just on schoolyard respect. As a father himself, Elson knew that his friend needed the kidney to be there for his then 3-month-old daughter.

On dialysis for more than two years, Elson’s friend had 10 percent of his kidney function. His blood type was O.

“O’s are considered universal donors, but they kind of get the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving a donation,” Elson said. “I instantly told his sister-in-law that I would get tested. I felt at the time this is what I needed to do to make sure that his daughter had her dad for the rest of his life.”

Elson said the testing process was arduous.

During the second round, he was evaluated not just for his physical fitness but also for his emotional and psychological fitness.

Aaron and GregAfter he cleared the second battery of tests, he had to make his decision final.

“After that second day, I actually went to his house for dinner and he had to leave early to go to dialysis,” Elson said. “It was such a disruption to his quality of life. When they left on vacation, they had schedule it around his dialysis. It was an easy decision.”

The transplant happened Oct. 23, 2008, and Elson has no regrets.

In fact, the bond he shared with his friend has grown much stronger and his family circle expanded. Elson said his friend now has two children.

Since then, Elson has become a staunch advocate for organ and tissue donation.

“My awareness has gone up since then,” he said. “I try to talk about being a donor as often as possible. Not everybody has to be a living donor. Just being a donor is a huge first step toward getting the hundreds of thousands of people who need tissue or organ donations the help they need.”

More than 120,000 Americans are on a waiting list for organ donation and Colorado’s list tops 2,500.

Signing up for the donor registry is easy. Follow the link on Parkview Medical Center’s web page or go here: and sign up today.

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