Organ donation gives teller a second chance
In Texas, a Wells Fargo service manager’s donated kidney returned one of her tellers to health — and spotlights the need for more organ donations by African Americans.
“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert Humphrey, U.S. vice president 1965–69.
Lead Teller Lakeisha Rosebud received not only the gift of friendship from her boss, Service Manager Sharon Reed, but also the gift of life.
When Sharon arrived at Lakeisha’s banking store in Red Oak, Texas, in 2014, it didn’t take long for her to notice Lakeisha’s rapidly declining health. Her body was rejecting a cadaver kidney she’d received in a transplant six years earlier.
Please take one of mine, Sharon told her.
“As my 13-year-old son said many times, ‘Mom, God gave you two kidneys, so why not share your spare?’ ” she says of her decision. “I’m just glad I could be there for someone when they needed me.”
Lakeisha recalls, “As soon as I received Sharon’s kidney, I felt 110 percent better the same day. I feel that was because the organ came from a living donor. Sharon and I were friends before the transplant but now are bonded for life. I feel like she is my sister.”
The two got matching tattoos on their wrist that say, “Blessed,” to celebrate their connection. Each tattoo features a green ribbon symbolizing organ transplants.
Sharon and Lakeisha marvel at how their teammates and company have rallied around them ― joining them in the annual Kidney Walk, giving them a sendoff party before the transplant, and showering them with gifts, flowers, calls, cards, emails, and lots of love and support before, during, and after the transplant, which took place in March 2015.
“I came back to work first, in April ― Lakeisha returned the next month ― and there was a team breakfast and flowers on my desk plus a lot of hugs and tears from team members and customers,” Sharon says.
“Everyone has been there for us,” Lakeisha adds, “and all my teammates see the difference Sharon’s gift has meant to me. I’m not sick and fatigued all the time anymore.”
The need for donors
Fully healed after the successful transplant procedure at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, both women say the experience has changed their lives.
One result: a new nonprofit they’re forming called the Regifting Life Foundation of America. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, especially among African Americans.
Their doctor, Baylor transplant surgeon Dr. Gregory McKenna, says it’s a cause well worth the effort. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 35,000 of the 101,000 people awaiting kidney transplants are African Americans. But only 800 of the 5,700 living donors on the Foundation’s registry are African Americans. “There is a great need for African Americans to consider becoming organ donors,” McKenna says. “In general, the best choices from a tissue-matching point of view are those with your same demographic and genetic backgrounds, which makes life-saving decisions like the one Sharon made for Lakeisha all the more important.”
Sharon doesn’t think it’s a coincidence she and Lakeisha crossed paths. Sharon transferred to the Red Oak location after working in Midlothian for 10 years.
“I really believe I was meant to be here, at that time, for Lakeisha,” Sharon says. “Our paths crossed for a reason.”
For more information about organ donation and transplantation, see the National Kidney Foundation website.