DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A couple of DeKalb County women who first met two months ago will share a pair of kidneys starting Wednesday.
Paula Nance was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease about 15 years ago, which she said is hereditary.
She began dialysis three years ago and doctors put her on a transplant recipient list.
She said donors have to be in almost perfect health with no family history of disease, and they have to match her blood type and tissue type.
“You’re wondering if and when,” she said.
“I’ve had so many people that have tried to donate to me, but it’s such a difficult process to try and find a perfect match.”
Nance said dialysis has been difficult and frustrating at times, as she has to do that in the evenings instead of other things she would like to attend.
There are also dietary restrictions, and all of that combined means decreased energy.
Friends began sharing stories on Facebook about Nance’s quest for a kidney which is where Connie Hughes saw it.
She is friends with one of Nance’s co-workers.
She is a frequent blood donor, and said she always told her family she would be willing to be an organ donor.
“I actually did not have it put on [my driver's license] until about three years ago after my mother passed away,” Hughes said.
“I had never really thought about live organ donation because I didn’t know a whole lot about it, and I didn’t really realize it was possible until after hearing Paula’s story.”
She said she began to pray that Paula would get a kidney.
“I was lifting her up [to God] because when I see a need, especially when somebody has brought it to my attention, I try to pray about it and I was just compelled to pray for her as soon as I saw it.”
She began to question if she could be more involved and make a difference in the process, and during one set or prayers she said she felt God telling her she could do it.
Despite knowing many had tried with no success, Hughes decided to be tested, and said she was confident from the beginning that she could be the donor.
“When they called to tell me I was a blood match, it didn’t surprise me at all,” she said.
“My coordinator said that, “you don’t act surprised”, and I said “I’m not,” I knew that I was going to be the one,” she said.
Hughes and Nance still had not yet met.
“A mutual friend called me and said that someone wanted to donate,” Nance said.
“We met at a local restaurant [in July] and she told me she had passed, when we first met, she had already passed the test.”
They met with doctors and scheduled a transplant for September 19.
Nance said she’s been counting down the days ever since.
“I just can’t say what I feel, it’s just so amazing and I just can’t imagine someone being willing to do what she’s doing,” she said about Hughes.
“We were total strangers when this all started and for someone to be willing to do that for someone they don’t know is just overwhelming.”
Hughes said she is at perfect peace with the decision and is not worried about surgery, as she believes God would have stopped it at some point if it was not what was best for her and Nance.
There was a surprise party for Nance at the DeKalb County Board of Education a few days before the scheduled surgery, which Hughes attended at the invitation of Nance’s co-workers.
Their mutual friend told her she could come by and visit her kidney anytime.
“But really it’s not mine after Wednesday, and I don’t think it’s been mine all along,” Hughes said.
“God’s been using me to take care of Paula’s kidney for her.”
They will go to Birmingham on Tuesday for the transplant surgery Wednesday.
Thursday is Nance’s birthday, and she said this is the “best birthday present ever.”
She asks that if anyone feels led to donate an organ, don’t hesitate.