Celebrating National Kidney Month

March 12, 2024

March is National Kidney Month and to celebrate, we’re highlighting influential individuals who were kidney patients, transplant recipients and donors.


Levar Burton, Actor, TV Host, Director & Author

Living Kidney Donor

In 2001, Burton donated a kidney to his mother, who was diabetic. He says that this was a spiritual event for his whole family.

Neil Simon, Playwright, Screenwriter & Author

Kidney Transplant Recipient

In 2004, Simon received a kidney transplant from his long-time friend and publicist Bill Evans.

Erma Bombeck, Columnist & Bestselling Author

Kidney Transplant Recipient & Breast Cancer Survivor

Bombeck was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease when she was 20 years old. She survived breast cancer and a mastectomy and kept secret the fact that she had kidney disease, enduring daily dialysis. She went public with her condition in 1993. After she spent years on a waiting list for a transplant, one kidney had to be removed, and the remaining one ceased to function. On April 3, 1996, she finally received a kidney transplant.

Kenny Easley, Former NFL Player

Kidney Transplant Recipient

Easley used a kidney dialysis machine for more than a year until he could find a suitable donor for a transplant. Easley believed his kidney function deterioration was due to the usage of painkillers. He filed suits against the Seahawks and settled out of court.

Sean Elliott, Former NBA Player

Kidney Transplant Recipient

Elliott silently suffered from kidney disease until he had to step away from his NBA career in 1999. Elliott received a kidney from his brother, Noel, and then became the first active NBA player to return to play following a transplant.

George Lopez, Standup Comedian, Actor, TV Host & Producer

Kidney Transplant Recipient

Lopez had a genetic condition that caused his kidneys to deteriorate. His doctors told him in April 2004 that he was going to require an organ transplant but he postponed the operation until finishing the fourth season of George Lopez. In 2005, his then-wife Ann donated one of her kidneys to Lopez. The transplant was successful; Lopez lost 45 pounds after the operation, due in part to the improvement in his health. He brought awareness to the issue on his show and his character’s son Max was diagnosed with a similar illness.

Selena Gomez, Singer, Songwriter & Actor

Living with Lupus & Kidney Transplant Recipient

Gomez was diagnosed with Lupus sometime between 2012 and early 2014. In September 2017, she revealed on Instagram that she had withdrawn from public events during the previous few months because she had received a kidney transplant from actress and friend Francia Raisa.

Sarah Highland, Actor

Two-time Kidney Transplant Recipient

Hyland was diagnosed with kidney dysplasia as a child and received a kidney transplant from her father in April 2012. That kidney failed after a few years, leading to a second kidney transplant in September 2017, donated by her younger brother, Ian.

Alonzo Mourning, Former NBA Player

Kidney Transplant Recipient & Kidney Health Advocate

On November 25, 2003, Mourning’s cousin and a retired U. S. Marine, Jason Cooper, was visiting Mourning’s sick grandmother in the hospital. Mourning’s father was present and informed Cooper that Mourning was retiring that day from the NBA because of a life-threatening kidney disease. Cooper asked if there was anything he could do, and began to contemplate donating one of his kidneys to his estranged cousin, whom he had not seen in 25 years and whom he only knew through basketball. Cooper was tested for compatibility, along with many other family members and friends, including fellow NBA center and good friend Patrick Ewing. During his grandmother’s funeral, Mourning received the news that Jason Cooper was a match.

After being diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), Mourning launched Zo’s Fund for Life, a campaign which seeks to raise funds for research, education, and testing to fight focal glomerulosclerosis. Funds are allocated toward research for a cure, education for doctors and the general public, testing for early detection and a fund for those not able to afford medication.

Tina Turner, Singer, Songwriter, Actor & Author

Kidney Transplant Recipient

Turner’s 2018 memoir disclosed that she had high blood pressure since 1978, which remained mostly untreated, and resulted in damage to her kidneys and eventual kidney failure. In 2013, three weeks after her wedding to Erwin Bach, she had a stroke and needed to learn to walk again.
Her chances of receiving a kidney transplant were considered low and she was urged to start dialysis. Her husband donated his kidney to her on April 7, 2017.

Natalie Cole, Singer, Songwriter & Actress

Kidney Transplant Recipient

Four months after starting treatment for Hepatitis C, Cole experienced kidney failure and required dialysis three times a week for nine months. Following her appeal for a kidney on The Larry King Show in 2009, Cole received a directed donation from a deceased donor. Having heard of Ms. Cole’s need for a kidney, the family asked that one of their loved one’s kidneys be transplanted to Ms. Cole if they were a match.

Oscar Robertson, Former NBA Player

Living Kidney Donor

Oscar Robertson, a 12-time NBA All-Star, donated his kidney in 1997 to his daughter Tia who was diagnosed with Lupus at a young age. Robertson stated, “I’m the strongest person, we just went through an elimination process and it was me. I hope people don’t over-dramatize it. It’s something any parent would do.”

850 million people in the world have kidney disease. On average, kidney disease affects one in nine people, with most suffering silently because they have yet to realize they are ill. To ensure your kidney’s are functioning properly, check for early warning signs such as a persistent feeling of dizziness or fatigue, and make sure to stay current with your medical checkups.

About Sierra Donor Services

Sierra Donor Services (SDS) serves nearly three million people in Northern California and Northern Nevada. We are an exceptional team of professionals dedicated to saving and improving lives by connecting organ and tissue donation to the patients who need them. We strive to extend the reach of each generous donor’s gift to those who are always profoundly grateful for them.

#BeTheGift that saves lives!

When you register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, you leave a lasting legacy and bring hope to those waiting.

To access the National Registry, click here.