LAST DECEMBER, Judy Carter enjoyed dinner and Christmas lights with her family. For some, it’s a little thing, but for Carter and her family, it was a reason to celebrate. And it was possible because of the connection with her daughter-in-law, Sarah Campbell — well, her connection and the kidney she donated to Carter.
Just a few months earlier, Carter, 62, was taking 12 hours of dialysis at night and sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day, exhausted and without time for anything else. The kidney transplanted from a deceased donor 25 years ago was failing. Carter needed a new kidney to live.
Twenty-nine-year-old Campbell knew she wanted to donate her kidney to her mother-in-law, but Carter had reservations.
“My first reaction was no because she has two small boys at home, is happily married to my son, and she’d just started a business. I didn’t want the slightest chance that anything might hurt her or interfere with her life. I waited two and a half years for a deceased donor for my first transplant. This time, Sarah was the first tested, and I couldn’t believe she was a match. My prayer from the moment they told me she wanted to test — and she wanted to test; it was not up for negotiation — was that if there was anything that would harm her or hurt her life, she wouldn’t match or would be denied for some reason,” Carter said.
Campbell wasn’t worried, though. She was confident in and trusted God’s plan.
“I feel like it was all in God’s timing because everything down to the surgery date fell into place the way it should. It couldn’t have been any clearer that this was meant to happen, and I guess that’s why I felt so positive throughout the whole thing. At first, Jake wasn’t for it, but we prayed about it, and nothing made me question it,” said Campbell.
The transplant took place on August 19, 2022, and Carter agrees that timing is everything in this case. Kidneys from a deceased donor usually last for only 10 to 15 years, but Carter’s lasted for 25. Campbell had married into the family only five years earlier, so had her kidney given out sooner, Campbell would not have been there to donate.
Carter said, “We could just see God’s hand in everything. We really have felt it every step of the way; it worked out beautifully. It gives you such confidence that you know God has a plan for us from the moment we’re born, and He’s just there every step of the way.”
It’s not uncommon for people to question why Campbell would donate her kidney when she or an immediate family member might need it. The misconceptions surrounding being a living kidney donor are many and something the family hopes to clarify.
One is that organ donation delays burial. Carter said this is not the case; the sooner organs are harvested, the better the chances for a successful transplant. Some fear that harvesting the organs disrespects the body, but a donor’s family does not give up control. Carter said, “I think anybody that has ever donated from a loved one that’s passed has found they are so respectful of the body and the family.”
Both Campbell and Carter have been treated with compassion and respect throughout their experience.
Campbell said, “Let’s say I held my two kidneys, waiting for one of my kids to need it. Nine times out of 10, knock on wood, that’s not going to happen. Another thing is that I might not even be able to donate at that time. I know that right now, my body is healthy, and I am able to donate. But in 10 years, that might not be the case. So holding on to a kidney and waiting to see what happens or losing my mother-in-law and my husband losing his mother just wasn’t worth it. If you have someone in your family, you can be a living donor, or you can go in being a living donor to someone you don’t know. It’s something I never even thought of until I got into this family. It was a really cool experience.”
It’s an experience that has brought the women even closer together.
Carter said, “I have always loved her. I’ve loved her from the minute I met her. She’s got such a bubbly, sweet personality, and she’s just such a good mother and wife. I love her in so many ways. But I just feel a connection and a closeness to her that is just a bond. She will never know what she has given me through the generosity of her spirit. There’s not any way you can say thank you. I try to think of what I can do for her, and I keep coming up with: ‘There’s just no way that you can ever repay somebody for giving you life.’”
Campbell feels there are no thanks necessary.
“Like I told her from the beginning, joking around, but in all seriousness, she raised an amazing man, so it makes everything good. It was a fair trade,” she said. GN