We all have people in our lives that we say we would do anything for. Kim Brewer Jones, a teacher at Berkeley Elementary School, did exactly that when she found out that her friend Jay Jackson needed a kidney transplant.
Jackson, who suffers from a genetic condition that causes an abundance of cysts to grow in his kidneys, was experiencing rapidly declining health. In an effort to provide him with a better quality of life, he underwent a double nephrectomy to remove both kidneys.
Jones had watched her friend suffer for years.
“We lived on the same street, his wife is a teacher at Berkeley Elementary School and taught our son, we go to the same church, and he’s my husband’s financial advisor,” Jones said.
When she began to think about donating a kidney to Jackson, Jones immediately received support from her family. Her husband was also tested to see if he was a match, but he was ineligible to donate due to recent surgeries.
Her decision to do this for her friend was spurred by her faith. “I followed my beliefs,” she said. “In John 15:13, it says ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.'” Jones focused on the positive leading up to the surgery: “I never worried about dying. I saw it more as giving life. To me, it was no different than carrying three babies.”
Once Jones had received word that she was a match, she was ready to start the process. Jones says she never had second thoughts about her decision.
“I donate blood, and I’ve had three kids by c-section. I’ve had two back surgeries. It was never a big deal to me to worry about the pain,” she says.
After Jackson’s health declined following his double nephrectomy, Jones was eager to head into surgery. “I had heard that lots of kidney recipients started showing major results as soon as the new kidney started working.”
On the day of the surgery, all went smoothly, and Jones’ kidney was placed into her friend’s body. In the aftermath, Jones has taken the surgery and recovery in stride. So far, she stated, “The healing has been pretty easy. I slept a lot the first two weeks because I am allergic to the pain medications.”
Her biggest surprise during the recovery process was the fact that she hasn’t bounced back as quickly as she wants. “I get exhausted quickly,” she said. “And I’ve been accused of having ‘unrealistic expectations’ about my recovery. More than one person has had remind me gently that I’m not as young as I was. That hasn’t been good for my ego!”
Despite the slow healing process, Jones would donate over again if it were possible. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she stated. While at MUSC for the surgery, Jones met an elderly gentleman waiting a lung transplant. He joked to Jones, “Well, as long as you’re here, and already being cut open…” to which she replied, “You should have asked me before Jay did!”
More than anything, Jones sees the procedure as a way to raise awareness of the shortage of organ donors across the country. “I wish more people would consider donation,” she said. “According to the Kidney Foundation, almost nobody donates in America and even then, it’s usually because of a family member or a good friend.”
Jones urges the public to learn more about organ donation through the National Kidney Foundation’s website. “It’s really sad to learn how many people are dying because they never find a matching cadaver donor, much less a living donor who is willing to take a couple of weeks off to save a life.”
In South Carolina, all state employees who choose to donate an organ are given six weeks off to recover, and many donations are completely covered by the recipient’s insurance.
by Renae “Nikki” Nicole Gaskins