Nurse donates kidney to man she didn’t know out of kindness, inspired by her patients

Inspired by her career in nursing and passion for helping others, Ally Weaver registered to be a kidney donor in July 2023. Today, her kidney lives inside a man in New Mexico, who says he is eternally grateful for her selflessness.

Ally Weaver has always had an innate desire to help others.

This led her to pursue a career in nursing at Mayo Clinic. It also led her to donate one of her kidneys to a stranger last year, inspired by the patients she cares for.

Weaver works with children who have received transplants, are waiting for them, or are in the process of getting things lined up to receive their transplants.

She says they are true heroes, and why she registered on the National Kidney Registry website in July 2023 to be a living organ donor.

Before taking this step, she did a lot of research and had many conversations with loved ones and the nephrologists she works with.

"The National Kidney Registry has so much information readily available. The things I learned prior to donating were unbelievable and provided clarification on the questions I had about being a donor and what that looked like," Weaver says.

Ultimately, she decided to donate knowing that she could change someone's life.

The kidney donation journey

After Weaver completed the online form, the National Kidney Registry forwarded her information to the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center in Rochester.

She was contacted to schedule initial appointments. Over the next five months, she had phone conversations with social workers, psychologists and Transplant Center teams.

In October, she underwent three days of testing and met with psychologists, social workers, nutritionists, nurses and doctors in person. This thorough evaluation helps ensure that prospective donors are fully prepared, have considered both the risks and benefits, and have a chance to have any questions answered.

"It was a whirlwind of a couple of days," Weaver says. "The people I met during this time were some of the most caring and genuine people."

I certainly had expectations for my care, not only because I work for Mayo, but as a nurse. Those expectations were by far exceeded.

Ally Weaver

Once the testing was complete, she waited for a call to determine whether she was a good fit for donation. At the end of the month, she received that call. Two weeks later, Mayo Clinic found her match.

"That was such an exciting and happy day," Weaver says. "Some additional testing followed, and surgery was scheduled for Dec. 6."

Ally Weaver after her surgery.

Weaver says her surgery went better than expected.

"I certainly had expectations for my care, not only because I work for Mayo, but as a nurse," she says. "Those expectations were by far exceeded. The teams that cared for me before, during and after the procedure were exceptional. They made sure I was taken care of."

Recovery was about what she expected, as well. The hardest part, she says, was the weight restrictions during the initial recovery period.

"I have a two-year-old who weighs well above the limit, and not being able to lift him up was hard," Ally says. "I am usually a pretty busy person, and having to sit and relax for long periods of time made me a little stir crazy."

In spite of that, she says she would do it again.

Learning about the life she touched

After undergoing surgery, Weaver got the chance to connect with her kidney recipient, Fred Montalvo, whose story is quite remarkable. Weaver's kidney was not the first one that Fred received.

Fred and Trisha Montalvo.

Back in 2003, two years after he started dialysis, a family member donated a kidney, which worked well for him for about 20 years. As that kidney began to decline in function, he started the process for a second transplant.

This time, his wife, Trisha Montalvo, participated in the kidney exchange program to speed up the transplant process. It wasn't long before he found out that Weaver's kidney was a match for him. Her kidney was transported from Rochester to Arizona for his surgery.

Fred knows that kidney donation is a difficult decision for anyone to make, and he is eternally grateful to those who have given him multiple chances at life, including his donors, doctors and nurses at Mayo.

"I have been able to watch my children grow up, teach thousands of students, coach football, and earn a master's degree and Ph.D.," he says. "Most importantly, I am still able to do the things I enjoy with little-to-no limitations."

I have been able to watch my children grow up, teach thousands of students, coach football, and earn a master's degree and Ph.D.

Fred Montalvo

Fred says that although he can't pay any of his donors back for all they have given him, he can take good care of the organs they shared with him. This is what he did the first time, and what he intends to do again with his new kidney. 

For Weaver, being able to help another person in such a significant way is what it's all about.

"We have to care for each other. We have to choose kindness. We have to believe there is good in this world," Weaver says. "Sometimes, that choice can be the difference between life and death."