Kidney donor advocates for disability benefits

Donating a kidney is a gift that is meant to help others live. But donors are saying that those who donate a kidney are at risk for losing their employment because of inequities in the temporary disability insurance law.

“Back in 2010, a young lady came to me who had donated an organ to her aunt. And she told me that she had been denied. And that was the first that I really knew about it.” Kidney Foundation of Hawaii Diana Benningfield said.

That young lady was Sianini Faitala who took off from work to donate a kidney to her aunt.

“So when I came back from surgery in March and I went to see my HR office, they said that’s not covered because it was an elective surgery.” Kidney donor, Sianini Faitala said.

Bills being considered in the legislature would change that so that employers would be required to provide temporary disability insurance for living organ donors.

“There have been about six people that I’m aware of in the last two to three years that have decided against making a donation because they weren’t sure they could support their family.” Benningfield said.

In Hawaii, there are more than 400 people on a kidney donor list.

“A lot of people are on a kidney list and they’re waiting for years and years. I’m sorry… Luckily my aunt and I were able to matches and when I found out that we were a match, although she’s not my birth mother, we were very lucky.” Faitala said.

To our surprise, Benningfield, the head of the Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, is a kidney donor – a youngster is running, playing, living – thanks to her.

“You walk the walk. “we try, we try – we’re always delighted to help in any way we can.” Benningfield said.

Both Diana and Sianini want to see the TDI adjustment bill passed so that organ donors won’t be penalized.

“And hopefully this bill will be passed so that people who donate a kidney for anyone – whether it be family members, friends or strangers, I would still encourage them to do that.” Faitala said.

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