Annette Carrington drove to Fort Worth worried. “What am I going to say?” she asked her mother as the two drove from Saint Jo to meet the mother of Annette’s kidney donor. “What do you say to a mother who has lost a child? She lost a son. She has given me everything.”
Her donor’s mother was filled with trepidation, too, as she drove with her family from Watauga. Debbie Campbell had agreed to attend the JPS Health Network’s raising of the Donate Life flag on Tuesday, but as the event drew near, she grew increasingly anxious. She’s always known that her son’s donated organs saved the lives of five people, but she had never met a recipient. And at the last minute, she wasn’t sure she wanted to.
The two women met privately at JPS before the flag raising ceremony, an annual event to celebrate organ and tissue donors and raise awareness during Donate Life month in April. A different donor/recipient pair is chosen every year to hoist the flag, which will fly on the Main Campus through the end of the month.
Campbell lost her first-born son, Dustin McCoy, on Nov. 20, 2010 to a firearms accident. He died after being rushed to the Level I Trauma Center at JPS, and Campbell consented to organ donation.
By then Carrington had been on the waiting list for a donor kidney for two years and seven months. Her kidneys were destroyed by polycystic kidney disease, leaving her dependent on dialysis.
Carrington underwent a transplant on Nov. 22, 2010 at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. A graphic artist at the Gainesville Daily Register, she said she feels better since her transplant than she did for many years before.
Both women said their apprehension vanished instantly when they finally came face-to-face on Tuesday.
“She said the perfect thing,” said Campbell. “She said thank you.”
They hoisted the flag together and then stood locked in a lingering embrace.
Former Dallas Cowboys star cornerback Everson Walls also spoke at the ceremony, recalling that he “was able to step up and help a family out” by being a kidney donor for a fellow former Cowboys player. Walls had a kidney removed in 2007 for a transplant for Ron Springs. He and Springs became vocal advocates of organ donation, work he continued after Springs’ death. Springs died later in 2007 of complications that developed during surgery to remove a cyst from his arm.
Before posing for pictures and signing autographs, Walls had words for both Campbell and Carrington. “I know you guys are proud of what he was able to do,” Walls told Campbell and McCoy’s siblings. To Carrington, he said, “You take it from here. Do the best you can do for the rest of the days you have on earth. The gift of life is not necessarily just about organ donation. The gift of life is about helping anyone in need.”
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