Iris Zink: The Gift of Life


Ah, the holidays – that magical time of year when Christmas spirit is abundant. Gifts are given and received, and there is a genuine feeling of joy in the air.

But there is no more precious gift than life, and it wasn’t even Christmas when Iris Zink decided to give it.

Zink, co-founder of the Nurse Practitioner Rheumatology Clinic in East Lansing (formerly Lansing Rheumatology) had no reservations giving this gift to her friend and patient of 18 years, Ginny Holcomb.

Holcomb was battling cancer as well as other kidney diseases that had left her in need of a new kidney. Zink didn’t hesitate to be tested to be her donor.

Months passed, and doctors kept performing tests until finally Zink was able to call Holcomb to tell her the good news.

“I thought she was joking at first. I cried,” said Holcomb. “I couldn’t believe it.”

A humble Zink praised Holcomb for her outlook on life. “Ginny is braver than I am. No matter how many horrible things have happened to her, she has always tried to make other people laugh,” Zink said.

Zink and Holcomb were in pre-op together before the surgery in July.

“We had both our families with us. It was like a huge party,” Holcomb said.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success. Recovery for the donor can be more difficult, but Zink was back to work in a month.

“I can’t whine,” said Zink, “not when I know what Ginny has gone through.”

Holcomb is doing wonderful as well. In fact, her positivity is evident as she fills the room with her laughter.

“For me, it’s gotten me through so much,” she said, referring to her sense of humor. As for Zink’s gift, “I’m grateful,” Holcomb said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”Zink and Holcomb shared a mutual friend named Arlene, an inspirational woman who had 11 children, including nine special-needs children whom she adopted. She passed away in August 2010, shortly before what was to be her 70th birthday. Because Arlene was such a fighter, Holcomb found it fitting to name her new kidney “Arlene” after her late best friend. Just one of many obvious signs that Holcomb, even with all she has been through, thinks
of others first.

Zink and Holcomb are sharing their story with hope that more people will consider organ donation. When asked if she would do it again, Zink didn’t hesitate.

“Oh absolutely,” Zink said smiling, “I’m trying to figure out what other organ I can give. Can I give someone a piece of my heart?”

In a way, she already did.

For more information on becoming a donor, visit



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