Silt woman gives gift of life " a kidney |

Silt woman gives gift of life " a kidney

Heidi Rice
Garfield County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Elliott Brown, and Joy Zeller, both of Silt, smile as they tell their story. The two have known each other since childhood. Zeller donated one of her kidneys to Brown in March 2005. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

SILT ” When Joy Zeller gave the gift of life to her friend, she also learned herself just how precious life is.

That’s what the 26-year-old Silt woman says three years after giving one of her kidneys to her friend Elliott Brown, 28.

Zeller has known Brown since they were very young and living in Pennsylvania.

“We used to call him ‘Little Elliott,'” Zeller said, looking at her friend with a big smile. “We’ve been interacting with our families since way back.”

Brown was born with a condition called Alport Syndrome, a genetic disease that is characterized by end-stage kidney disease, hearing loss and, sometimes, vision problems.

Brown received a kidney transplant from his father in 1995. But 10 years later, it was determined that he needed another one.

Zeller, who moved back to Colorado in 2003 after finishing college, flew out to the east coast where she and Brown were admitted into the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Doctors first operated on Zeller and then Brown.

And it’s a gift for which Brown is extremely grateful.

“The fact that she would do something like this,” he said with a tremble in his voice and tears welling up. “She’s such a wonderful person.”

It’s now been nearly three years since the transplant, and Brown is doing well. On his left wrist he wears a green bracelet, which he received from the hospital a month after the surgery. The bracelet reads, “Donate Life,” and he has never taken it off.

Following the transplant, Brown was also able to again imbibe in one of his favorite beverages ” chocolate milk.

“He lives on chocolate milk and Doritos,” Zeller said with a laugh.

Brown smiled but did not deny it.

He has recently moved to Silt and just began a job at Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs as a lift operator for the 2008-09 ski season.

Zeller and her husband, John, recently had a healthy baby girl who is now three and a half months.

“Donating my kidney to Elliott is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” she said, bouncing the baby on her lap before hesitating. “Well … giving birth was pretty cool, too.”

Zeller’s gift to Brown was life-saving to him, but she got something out of it as well.

“You only have one body in your life, and you have to take care of it,” she said. “This has been a benefit to me to realize how precious life is. And I hope my story will spur someone else on to do the same thing.”

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