Teen advocates for organ donation after receiving a kidney transplant

Tristan Johnson -
Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-14 17:13:34-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In the United States, every ten minutes a new name is added to the organ transplant list, and one west Michigan high school student knows what it's like to be on that list.

In Michigan, there are a little over 2,500 people on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant.

A Portage Northern High School student is doing his best to raise awareness on organ donation after receiving a kidney almost two years ago.

"At that point, I didn’t know anything about kidneys at all. Other than the fact that they were a pretty vital organ in your body so I was pretty scared," said a Portage Northern High School Junior Tristan Johnson.

Tristan Johnson was a high school freshman when he found out he had a kidney failure caused by an autoimmune disease called 'lupus'.

Lupus is a disease where your body's immune system attacks your tissues and organs.

In February of 2019, Tristan found out he needed a kidney transplant. Three months later, he underwent surgery.

"For kids it is more common to get it more quickly than adults. I was only on the waiting list for five days, so I was very blessed to have that. I was actually the fastest at the time," said Johnson.

Now almost two years later, Tristan has become an advocate for organ donation to raise awareness on the need for donors.

"I know for me and my family, we didn’t know much about organ donation before I was affected. It is not a very common thing but it can happen to anyone," said Johnson.

"The fact that he is wanting to give back and raise awareness now, he is just dedicated to making sure he makes the most out of the gift he was given. We are really proud of him for that," said Carrie Johnson, Tristan's mom.

As he looks to his future, he said he wants to get as many people signed up to become organ donors as he can, because he can't put into words how thankful he is for the kidney he received.

"It is definitely very emotional. You want to say all of the things you can to them but I never seem to find the right words to show how grateful I am for that," said Johnson.

Tristan is also a lacrosse player at Portage Northern and is looking towards college in a couple of years where he can play, while also working to become a physician assistant.

For more information on becoming an organ donor or to register, click here.