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In Memoriam: Kathe LeBeau and Nefeterius McPherson

UNOS is saddened by the sudden passing in March of Katherine “Kathe” LeBeau and Nefeterius McPherson. Both were staunch and tireless advocates for donation and transplantation.

At the time of her death, Kathe LeBeau, a kidney candidate, was a member of the OPTN/UNOS operations and safety committee, having recently completed a term on the patient affairs committee (PAC).

“At the end of every meeting,” remembered Freda Wilkins, UNOS’ PAC liaison, “Kathe would say, ‘Next time, maybe I will be able to say I got the call.’

“Unfortunately,” Wilkins added, “Kathe never got her kidney call. But she answered her life’s call to make the world better, brighter and safer for all of us.”

In addition to LeBeau’s job as director of patient services and public policy for the Northeast Kidney Foundation in Albany, N.Y., she served in a multitude of volunteer capacities, including board member for the American Association of Kidney Patients. She was a passionate advocate for home hemodialysis.

Nefeterius McPherson, a liver recipient, was the winner of UNOS’ Transplant Living’s “Stories of Hope” video contest in 2012 and was selected as a rider on this year’s Donate Life float in the Rose Parade.

A fifth-generation Texan, McPherson was diagnosed with secondary sclerosing cholangitis during her first year in law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She felt well enough after graduation in 2009 to move to Washington, D.C., to accept a federal appointment as press secretary.

Her symptoms soon reappeared and worsened. She was transplanted in 2011, and her donor was a 12-year-old girl from West Virginia. The poignancy of her donor’s age stayed with McPherson, fueling her advocacy efforts.

She volunteered with UNOS to advocate for the many whose lives have been saved and enhanced through transplantation. She served as a donation ambassador in Texas and West Virginia.

“Nef began volunteering, appearing in a driver’s license office training video, even before she was listed for transplant,” said Donate Life Texas executive director Pam Silvestri. “Once she received her new liver, she talked often about her donor and participated in anything she could that would honor that young girl. She will be missed by donation advocates across the nation.”

UNOS commemorates the lives of these extraordinary women who did so much for the transplant community.

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