As many people are seeking various organs for transplants around the country and world, Shirley Earwood, a recent left kidney recipient, speaks out about the importance of organ donation and how …
As many people are seeking various organs for transplants around the country and world, Shirley Earwood, a recent left kidney recipient, speaks out about the importance of organ donation and how everyone can do small things to contribute to the overall movement.
The 62-year-old never expected to need a kidney, as she grew up believing people were born with what they needed and would leave with the "same contents."
“I had a stroke in 2009. It did significant damage to my kidneys, and eventually years of high blood pressure and diabetes took their toll on me,” she said.
Earwood went to Dr. Brant Holt at Erlanger in Chattanooga, who had been her kidney doctor for several years, as well as Dr. Michael Greer, who put a fistula into her arm in March 2017.
A fistula can be created during surgery to allow fluids to exit the body. Her fistula required multiple surgeries and wasn’t fully adapted until February 2018.
While doing blood work following the fistula success, Holt discovered Earwood’s kidneys were operating sporadically between 9, 10 and 12 percent function, which are alarming numbers.
Holt informed Earwood she would have to go on dialysis until she got a kidney transplant if her kidney function didn’t improve.
She said Holt told her to think of dialysis as a stepping stone toward transplant.
“I told Dr. Holt, ‘I’m not accepting that. When the Lord gets ready for me to have a kidney He’ll put one out there.’ That was on Monday. On Tuesday, I got a call from Rachel, the kidney transplant coordinator at Erlanger, who said, ‘Ms. Earwood, I think we found you a kidney.’ I had to do a double-take because I thought I was hearing things,” Earwood explained.
Praising God, she was told she would have a room that same day fora transplant. Her donor was a 44-year-old multi-donor, and her kidney transplant doctor was Dr. Phillip Smith at Erlanger.
Prior to surgery, Earwood states she gets nervous, but when her daughters asked her if she was nervous on that day, she replied, “Not one bit. I know this is the Lord at work.”
Having been on the transplant list for two years, Earwood had six different people who offered to be her donors, but all had not been perfect matches due to Earwood’s high antibody count.
“Dr. Kenneth Kokko at Erlanger told me I’d be a hard match, and that I may be on the transplant list for five years. That’s why it was that much more miraculous to be seen in two years,” she said.
While the transplant was successful, Earwood’s stomach ruptured and burst the following week, which she states wasn’t related to the transplant. Emergency surgery was conducted and signs of healing were detected. She was at Erlanger for nearly four weeks recuperating and at a Life Care Center facility for two weeks.
According to the Living Kidney Donor Network, there are approximately 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list — including Cleveland’s own Bill Griffith and Amber Wilson — and many people can wait from 5-10 years for a kidney.
Earwood said the event really put her life into perspective. It also gave her and her daughters an appreciation for the importance of organ donation. Now, both of her daughters are organ donors and spread the word about the importance of donation.
As a thank-you for her donor, Earwood sent her donor’s family a letter of gratitude telling them how much she appreciated their loved one’s donation, because as a multi-donor, she helped numerous people who needed organs.
“When it’s time for you to leave this world, you can be a donor to give someone else who is still here a better quality of life and a longer life; I’m all about that. It’s changed my life tremendously. There’s so much bad stuff in the world nowadays I want people to know that miracles still happen. God is with us,” she said.
For those interested in being a donor, contact your local hospital’s transplant clinic, go to organdonor.gov or contact your local DMV.
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