Two women who attend the same Tennessee church are now “officially joined forever” after one of them, a mother of five, donated her kidney to the other, a single mom of a 2-year-old.
Erica Walker, 36, was in fear she wouldn’t live to see her only child, Karli, make it to kindergarten when she got a Facebook message earlier this summer from Jenny Williams, a mother of five whom she knew only as an acquaintance from church.
“She told me she had to do some more testing but so far, from everything they were telling her, she was my donor,” Walker, a middle-school teacher from Memphis, told ABC News. “I had to sit down on the sidewalk outside because all I could do was cry.”
Walker had been awaiting a kidney transplant for several months after being told by doctors she was in end-stage renal failure because of complications from Type 2 diabetes.
As Walker waited for the donation that would save her life, Williams, a mother of five daughters ranging in age from 8 to 16, underwent nearly six months of testing to find out whether she was Walker’s match.
Williams, also of Memphis, found out that Walker was in need of a kidney when she asked for prayers for her health at their church, Heartsong United Methodist, more than one year ago. Williams did not tell Walker she was even undergoing the testing to become a kidney donor because she did not want to get Walker’s hopes up.
“I look at my kids and can’t imagine them being without a mom or even having to face the idea,” Williams said. “It might be a little of pain but, in the end, it’s giving her life and making sure that Karli will have a mom.”
Williams and Walker underwent a successful kidney transplant at a Memphis hospital Sept. 12. They are both now home recovering, and each expects to return to work in the next three to six weeks.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Walker said of the first time she saw Williams after the transplant. “To know that there was somebody out there in this world who listened to God and cared enough to put themselves through a surgery like that so I could see my daughter grow up.”
About 6,000 organ transplants each year are made possible by living donors, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). More than 120,000 people in the United States are listed for an organ transplant.
Music star Selena Gomez announced last week that she underwent a kidney transplant because of complications from lupus. Gomez, 25, received a kidney from her best friend, Francia Raisa, the star of "The Secret Life of The American Girl."
Both Williams and Walker stressed the importance of organ donation.
“What seems like a small decision to you can change somebody else’s entire world, and that’s what organ donation does,” Walker said. “It’s changed everybody connected to me, even down to the students I teach, and it’s all because Jenny listened to God and Jenny made a selfless act to be an organ donor.”
Williams said, “If you have the opportunity to save somebody’s life by doing something relatively easy, you just do it. Even giving blood is so important.”
Williams said she formed a quick bond with Walker and even helped lighten her anxiety as the transplant date approached. Williams named her kidneys Simon and Garfunkel after the popular 1960s music duo and gave Walker the kidney named Garfunkel.
Asked whether the two women plan to spend time together, Williams said they are now “officially joined forever.”
Walker replied that they are “now family.”
She added, “And Garfunkel has to see Simon.”