Willie Middleton, at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, Oct. 26, 2011
Louise Hutchins, Oct. 26, 2011
UPDATE (Thur., Oct. 27, 2011) -- A Piedmont Hospital spokesman said Thursday evening that both the recipient, Willie Middleton, and the donor, Louise Hutchins, are doing well following the transplant surgery. The surgery began at 7:30 am, and all was finished by around 3:00 pm. The kidney began working immediately after surgeons transplanted it.
ATLANTA, (Wed., Oct. 26, 2011) -- Those who believe in miracles know that miracles can happen anytime, any place -- always exactly when and where they're needed most.
"I was amazed, and I was so thankful," said the plumber with kidney failure, on dialysis, needing a kidney transplant, unable to find a match, and unable to put in a full day's work anymore.
"I work like five minutes, and rest. Ten minutes and rest. My whole day would consist of rest and work, rest and work," the plumber, Willie Middleton, said from his hospital bed Wednesday afternoon.
Middleton tried to hide his condition from everyone but his doctors. But his pastors at Atlanta Metropolitan Christian Church near Edgewood Avenue and Boulevard could tell his health was deteriorating. Middleton said one of them told him, "'Willie, I'm announcing from the pulpit that you need everyone's prayers.'"
And just like that, a woman from church, Louise Hutchins, one of his wife's best friends, stepped forward and told his wife -- "I told her I'd go and see if I'm a match, and if I'm a match, then he can have mine."
Just like that.
"He can have mine," she said.
Louise Hutchins turned out to be a match and followed through to become Willie Middleton's kidney donor.
The donor Middleton had sought for so long turned out to be right there at church all along.
"Ask and you will receive," Hutchins said with a smile Wednesday afternoon. "You don't receive because you don't ask. And I feel like even with Willie not really wanting people to know, but now he's excited that people did find out, because now he's able to have a second chance... And if your brother's in need, you need to help him. So, if I ever need a kidney, hopefully somebody will love God enough to do the same thing for me, too."
The transplant surgery was scheduled for Thursday at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
Hutchins downplays it. "I know people say it's a big deal... but I have a conviction about what the Bible says, and so I just felt obligated to help, especially because I can."
She expects to be away from work for six weeks and has qualified for short-term disability, which will pay her only 50 percent of her salary during that time.
She will rely on her daughter Kayla, her mother Shirley Thomas, and other church members during her recovery.
"I'm so grateful for her," Middleton said. "For her to have that type of faith, I don't know whether I can have that kind of faith."
Wednesday afternoon, Middleton jumped up from his hospital bed as he and his wife Sandra greeted Hutchins, arriving for one, last pre-surgery visit.
And you know we're telling you this story because -- there is more.
Three weeks ago, Hutchins' 21-year-old son Antwuan, in the Air Force, was deployed to Afghanistan.
Just before he left, she told him about her kidney donation.
"I told him what I was doing. And he made me cry. Because he was saying how proud he was," she said.
Hutchins' eyes overflowed with tears as she tried to convey how much the gift that hearing those words from her son -- the son she credits with saving her own life -- meant to her.
"I had him when I was in high school," she said. "So he's just kind of like my strength. [He] would help me to persevere in life and to do better, you know, for him. So his thing was, 'anything you need, I will take care of you.'"
Her "second chance" has become Willie Middleton's second chance.
"I know God touched her heart to help," Middleton said. "That's what I call a real friend, to lay down her life for me."
Middleton said he will become an advocate for organ donations, to encourage more people to become organ donors.
We asked Jim Taylor of Piedmont Hospital to give us some background information on organ donations, with some links for people to check for more information:
As amazing as it is that we can make people like Mr. Middleton well again with transplantation, it's important to note that the physicians, surgeons, nurses and all of their technology and medicines are absolutely useless without donors.
Throughout our 25 years of transplantation at Piedmont, we've seen advances in organ rejection drugs and new surgery techniques that have improved recovery times and outcomes. However, the number available donors has remained the same. So many are still waiting for their second chance at life.
- Piedmont Hospital has performed well over 2,500 transplants since the start of its transplant program 25 years ago, including 800 living kidney transplants. This will be our 65th living donor kidney transplantation this year.
- According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, over 111,000 Americans, including more than 3,300 Georgians are currently waiting on life-saving organ transplants with another name added every 12 seconds.
- Today, 18 people in the United States will die waiting for a transplant.
- Georgians can become an organ donor by visiting donatelifegeorgia.org.
- Those interested in becoming a living donor should contact a Georgia transplant center such as the Piedmont Transplant Institute.