Health & Medicine

One Miracle Deserves Another

After a lifesaving procedure, Pleasant Rowland funds a UW transplant clinic.

Entrepreneur Pleasant Rowland is successful on many fronts. Perhaps best known as founder of the Middleton, Wisconsin–based Pleasant Company (now American Girl), she has demonstrated her love for the arts, literacy, and the greater Madison community through her many philanthropic gifts and has helped make some of the city’s enduring cultural landmarks a reality. Her newest beneficiary is UW Health — and for good reason.

Pleasant Rowland

Rowland: “It feels nearly impossible to say thank you enough to the kidney donor who saved my life and to the many doctors and staff at UW Hospital who made it happen.”

In 2012, after two decades of living with chronic kidney disease, Rowland found herself in a dire situation that required immediate attention. Blood tests indicated that she had stage 4 kidney failure. Her kidneys were performing at about 15 percent and she needed to start dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.

After family members were tested as potential kidney donors, Rowland learned that none were a good match, so she wrote a letter “to everyone I knew,” she says. She was stunned when she learned that a number of people volunteered to donate. “I don’t know who all these people are,’’ says Rowland, “and due to how the process works, I may never know.”

After testing was complete, two people were found to be good matches. Within weeks, UW Health surgeon Dixon Kaufman was transplanting the donated kidney. Rowland left the hospital two days later under the care of physician Arjang Djamali and could already feel her energy returning. “This was a miracle to me,’’ she says. “I was blessed to live so close to a world-renowned transplant center.”

Her gratitude inspired a $10 million gift that will support the creation of the Pleasant T. Rowland Transplant Clinic. Beginning in spring 2021, UW Health launched an extensive plan to construct the new clinic and update the entrance area at University Hospital. The new transplant clinic will improve patient access, significantly expand clinical space, allow for improved technology and patient education, and provide the full spectrum of patient services in one location, alleviating the need for patients to travel to other areas of the hospital.

Since completing its first kidney transplant in 1966, the UW Health Transplant Center has become one of the most successful in the country. In addition to offering a wide range of services, including kidney, pancreas, liver, heart, lung, intestine, multiple organ, islet cell, and pediatric transplants, the center also conducts innovative research. Rowland’s gift will extend the clinic’s reach even further.

“It feels nearly impossible to say thank you enough to the kidney donor who saved my life and to the many doctors and staff at [UW] Hospital who made it happen,” says Rowland. “This gift … is my way of saying thank you to the team for the incredible care I received here, to the many donors and their families for making such a selfless choice, and as a gift to all the transplant recipients who will come here seeking a second chance at life. … Life after transplant is wonderful.”

Published in the Summer 2021 issue


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