A Different Kind of Giving
June 1, 2009 -
University of Redlands sophomore Allison Cyr had to take it easy during her May Term leadership skills class, waiting for the four scabbing incision scars on her mid-section to heal.
For the entire term, she had to avoid lifting anything that weighs more than five pounds.
But the 20-year-old sociology major, who also has had to give up contact sports like football and martial arts for the rest of her life, says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
This spring, Allison donated a kidney to her former high school adviser and family friend, John Leinhard. The 46-year-old teaches Spanish at Indio High School, where Allison attended high school and her aunt is a longtime teacher.
"People have asked me over and over again why I decided to do this," said Allison, who endured a series of blood tests, CAT scans and other tests over a period of several months before being cleared as a donor.
"But to me, it’s pretty simple. He helped me a lot when I was in high school, and he is my friend. And this is something that you do for a friend. You help your friends when they need you."
Allison said that the recipient, Lienhard, is doing well. He needed the transplant because he has polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease characterized by the presence of fluid-filled cysts that lead to enlargement of the kidneys. He was first diagnosed with the disease when he was about 14, Allison said.
"He told me this is the best he has felt since he was 13, before he was diagnosed," Allison said. "I was really happy to hear that."
Donating her kidney is definitely not out of character for Allison, an aspiring math teacher with a long history of community and school service.
She is a student who is often seen smiling and offering encouraging words to friends and classmates, and when she talks about her passion for teaching students and preparing them for life beyond high school, her words come more quickly and she becomes visibly excited.
She is also the assistant coach of the Indio High School cross country team, where she says she is just as concerned about character development as she is with wins and losses.
Trying to boost the academic performance and drive of the team, she issued them a challenge: Maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, and outline a plan for how they can make the world a better place, and she would buy them a new pair of track shoes. Last summer, she bought five pairs of shoes using money she earned working. Three more pairs were paid for by other school staffers.
When she was in high school, Allison helped establish a scholarship in honor of the deceased brother of one of her friends.
"Establishing the scholarship seemed like a good idea – something that would help encourage people to go to college and to think that it was possible," she said. "Most students, when they are seniors in high school and thinking about college, are worried about where the money is going to come from."
At Redlands, Allison is involved in Jasper’s Corner Homework Club, a program that pairs Redlands students, particularly education and math majors, with area children. Study buddies typically help with homework, class projects and reading.
Allison said her family and close friends were supportive of her decision to donate her kidney, but some people have been puzzled by the choice.
"For a while it seemed like pretty much everyone was trying to talk me out of it," she said. "It’s normal for them to ask you if you are sure about the donation as part of the (screening) process, but I think they asked me a lot more because I am so young."
"I knew this was something I wanted to do. It wasn’t something I ever questioned. I basically had the chance to save someone’s life. Why wouldn’t I want to do that?"
Office of Public Relations