San Anselmo, California resident Missy Schwen Ryan holds four world records. In 1996, she and her rowing partner won a silver medal during the Olympic games held in Atlanta. In 2000, they won a bronze medal during games held in Sydney, Australia. Additionally, they also are World Rowing Champions, holding a silver award from 1995. The fourth record is like no other record she holds. Missy became the first Olympian to medal and have donated a kidney.
Her chosen sport has origins that reach back to Ancient Egyptian times. It involves propelling a boat known as a racing shell on water using oars.
As an award winning athlete, she is most proud of being the only American who has won Olympicmedals and who also donated a kidney in between Olympics. Her brother, Michael Towles-Schwen, was the recipient of her kidney donation. In an interview with IndyStar, he said about his sister’s organ donation and subsequent second Olympic medal, “It’s a testament to her as an athlete. She’s amazing.” (Shown right, Missy Schwen Ryan and Karen Kraft in the Schwen/Kraft boat. Photo by Matt Detrich/IndyStar)
Michael suffered from IgA nephropathy, a common form of genetic kidney disease. According to IndyStar, the four Schwen siblings’ maternal uncle had undergone two transplants. Before the transplant, Michael’s kidney function had dropped to 10%, forcing him to undergo dialysis. Tom Schwen, Michael’s father said he was “close to death a couple of times.”
The Washington Post also carried a story about this incredible sibling pair. Their father, Tom, was quoted as saying, “I’m prouder of my kids about this donor business than about the Olympics and I’m awfully proud of that.” Tom also once was a competitive rower.
IndyStar reported, “The transplant took place at Northwestern University in Chicago. Michael said he experienced ‘profound change’ immediately. ‘I felt better, more energy.’”
In March 2010, Missy was inducted into the National Rowing Hall of Fame.
The National Foundation for Transplants helps patients seeking a second chance at life through organ transplant, as well as Living Donors like Missy. Read more about our Living Donor program.