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Megan Dunnagan, 29, dies while awaiting kidney

Wed., June 18, 2014

Janet Dunnagan hopes her daughter will continue to inspire others, even in death.

News coverage of Dunnagan’s desperate search for a kidney donor for her daughter prompted others to become organ donors.

But no match was found in time for Megan Dunnagan, and she died on Saturday at age 29 in Spokane.

“She was in bad shape,” her mother said. “She was ready to go, too. The suffering was so great. It was just too much.”

Megan Dunnagan suffered end-stage renal disease. In January 2013 her mother placed classified ads in newspapers around Washington, Idaho and California hoping to find a suitable donor. News outlets shared Dunnagan’s story, highlighting the growing need for kidney donors.

While the search didn’t produce a timely suitable donor for Megan, it set off a chain of events that led to two kidney transplants for others.

The Rev. Michael Blackburn, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Spokane, saw an advertisement and a news article about Dunnagan in The Spokesman-Review and became a donor, along with a parishioner’s brother.

“All the people she touched is just incredible,” Janet Dunnagan said.

She hopes her daughter’s story will continue to raise awareness about the need for organ donors and implored people to consider donation.

“I just ask people to give life,” she said.

There are nearly 101,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list in the United States, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. The number of people in need of a kidney transplant is growing, in part because of a rise in diabetes and hypertension.

Janet Dunnagan remembered her daughter Monday as a selfless woman who never cared much about material possessions, who put others first and who loved baking for her youth group.

But Megan dreamed of a more normal life, one in which she could eat the foods she enjoyed, work a full-time job and have children. Instead, her life was punctuated by hours spent hooked up to a dialysis machine several times each week.

Her kidneys failed when she was an infant and she received one kidney from her mother, but that eventually failed, too. She had been on dialysis for more than 13 years when she died. She endured a barrage of surgeries, infections and other complications.

“I think Megan would want everyone to just be aware of donation,” said her younger sister, Michelle Dunnagan, who was inspired to become a pediatric nurse after spending much of her youth in a children’s hospital with her sister. “Despite all Megan’s problems, no matter how much she went through, she was always still positive. She could be completely sick, but yet she’d be always happy and always trying to take care of someone else.”

Dunnagan’s younger brother discovered he was a match in January, but by then, Dunnagan was too sick to undergo the transplant.

Family members and her longtime boyfriend were by her side in her final days, and her beloved Chihuahua, Killer, laid in her lap licking her hand until she died.

“I wish I could have gotten more time with her,” her mother said. “But I feel that, even though she is gone from us, she is in heaven with God and there is no more suffering, there is no more surgery, there is no more pain.”

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