Jeffrey Smith: A winner on and off the court

A professional basketball referee, Jeffrey Smith knows the value of teamwork toward wins. Off the court, he helped score a big win for a loved one after volunteering to be a kidney donor.

Jeffrey Smith

It was after a meeting at Yale New Haven Transplantation Center with other families in similar situations, that Smith’s game plan clicked. “I told myself that I would be tested and if I’m a match I’m going to donate my kidney.”

Smith was a match. In preparation for the surgery that would remove one of his two kidneys for transplantation, he went through the donor evaluation process that included counseling and a medical evaluation. He also met with a donor advocate to ensure, in part, that Smith wanted to be a living organ donor. “I just wanted to make sure that my loved one received a kidney. That was my focus,” Smith recalled. “I said, ‘This is my loved one and I’d love to do this because it will save his life.’”

Surgery was set for March 2008. The timing was perfect for Smith who was between basketball seasons – with regular play just ending and WNBA season not yet started. A referee since 1990, Smith has covered Division 1 men’s and women’s NCAA games and since 2001, WNBA.

During his six-week recovery, Smith closely followed doctor’s orders “to get where I needed to be.” That also meant back on the court. From initial blood test to surgery, Smith said, “Staff was very helpful in making sure I felt well.”

He was cleared to referee the day before a preseason WNBA game.

Since becoming a living donor, Smith, now in his 50s, has spoken to several people about being a kidney donor, noting he was able to get back his normal life.

“If you can do it by all means definitely do it,” Smith said of being an organ donor. “It’s an event of a lifetime that you will be satisfied with ‑‑ especially if it’s a loved one ‑‑ it will be extremely rewarding.”

The Center for Living Organ Donors arranges for kidney and liver transplants from living donors. To learn more, please visit Center for Living Organ Donors.