The Ultimate Gift

By: Tracey Gould

When friends and neighbors need help, NC REALTORS® are known for rolling up their sleeves and diving headfirst into the cause. Whether it’s in response to floods, collecting backpacks for students, coming to the aid of a co-worker in need or donating a kidney for a friend…wait, what?!

Yes, donating a kidney for a friend, and in essence giving the gift of life — the ultimate gift — to someone in need. This is exactly what Kathy Haines, NC REALTOR® and president of Greensboro Regional REALTORS® Association, did before Thanksgiving 2016. This sacrifice and selfless gift of generosity gives a whole new meaning to the term “giving back,” and she has set the bar high for REALTORS® and humanity when it comes to gift giving.

What started in Christmas 2015, when she attended her friends’, Kathryn and Cliff Miller, holiday party, turned into a 12-month adventure no one ever expected. It was during this party when Kathy discovered Cliff was in need of a kidney, and no one in his immediate family was a match. He was already on daily dialysis and awaiting the next step — whatever that may be — but hopeful he would receive a transplant soon.

However, in the United States, there are currently over 100,000 patients awaiting kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and the median wait time for a kidney is over 3.5 years. Unfortunately, 13 people die on average each day, waiting for a kidney. In 2014, this number equated to nearly 5,000 patients. Another 3,638 patients became too sick to receive a kidney, making them ineligible, due to the wait. Kathy did not want her friend to become one of these statistics.

She left the holiday party that night inspired to make a difference and just knew that she was meant to donate a kidney to her dear friend, “I thought — I have two kidneys, and I only need one, so why not give my extra one to someone who needs it more than I do?”

Over the next few months, Kathy quietly started the kidney match process by getting a blood test, determining she was O positive — a match. The following February, she returned to the doctor and endured 3.5 days of testing — all while keeping the biggest secret of her life from her friends. She didn’t want to tell them her plans, as she was afraid of instilling false hope when more testing and information was needed. When asked why and how she persevered, Kathy confidently stated, “It became a competition with myself. I would pass one test, then face the next. I was determined to pass them all and accomplish my goal.” In the end, all of poking and prodding and hiding from her friends paid off, “In early September of 2016, I was notified I was a perfect match,” Haines gleamed. This was the day that would ultimately change the rest of their lives forever.

The next two months were a whirlwind. She wanted to break the news to her friend and her husband, but Kathy wanted to do it in a special way. She made an excuse to visit their home and casually asked Cliff, “Do you still need that kidney?” Needless to say, it was an emotional and life-changing moment that no one saw coming, and the response on his face validated her decision to make a living organ donation. “You could tell the burden was lifted,” she recalled. “Suddenly, there was real hope.”

The transplant was scheduled on November 8, 2016. There were only two months to prepare and plan. As with any surgery, there are certain risks to be cognizant of, and most REALTORS® who are actively practicing have healthy schedules to work around — especially those who are as involved with NC REALTORS® as she is. Kathy spent the following month wrapping up business items and intentionally not taking on any additional clients, so follow ups, showings, listings and closings would not be scheduled during the hospital stay or recovery period. When asked how she prepared for the “big day,” Kathy replied, “How do you prepare for something like this? You simply get all of your affairs in order.” Prepare for the worst and absolutely hope for the best. And thankfully, the best outcome was about to happen.

“I believe in my life being predestined. I believe in a higher being and want to make sure my life has a higher purpose,” Kathy exclaimed confidently. “What better way to do that than to give someone the gift of life?”

Through this experience, Kathy has become an unwitting advocate for living organ donations. “Most people are simply unaware that living organ donations are safe and available. Several such donations can be made, such as living liver donations. Most people don’t know that a healthy person can donate a piece of their liver to another person in need, and the human liver will grow and restore itself.” According to the American Transplant Foundation, a patient whose liver is diseased and experiencing failure needs a liver transplant. When this happens, the patient’s entire liver is removed and replaced with a portion of a donor’s healthy liver. Typically, a liver from a living donor lasts longer than that from a deceased donor — further validating the need and benefits for living organ donations.

Today, both patients are recovering nicely. Kathy has resumed most normal activities, including being active in GRRA in her new role as president, and she has returned to selling homes — just in time for a knee surgery the week before Christmas. Cliff is also recovering well, and fingers crossed, his body continues to accept the kidney without challenges. As an added benefit, Kathy has since become more focused on healthy and purposely living, and she has even incorporated this into her GRRA presidential tagline and platform for 2017 — MIND, BODY, & SPIRIT.

© Copyright 2017. North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, Inc. This article is intended solely for the benefit of NC REALTORS® members, who may reproduce and distribute it to other NC REALTORS® members and their clients, provided it is reproduced in its entirety without any change to its format or content, including disclaimer and copyright notice, and provided that any such reproduction is not intended for monetary gain. Any unauthorized reproduction, use or distribution is prohibited.

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