Sometimes friendships and life-long bonds come from the most surprising circumstances. Two donor moms, connected for more than a decade by heartbreaking loss, are now connected to one another in a whole new way.
Photo: Donor Moms Cheryl Manley and Stephanie Baker
A “Donor Mom” is one who has suffered the loss of a child that gave the gift of life by sharing their organs and tissues. In many cases, a person makes the choice to register as an organ donor in hopes to save lives through the gift of life, but in some cases - especially children’s - the family is approached by a care coordinator to make the choice on their behalf.
Cheryl Manley and Stephanie Baker each lost a child in traffic accidents -
Cheryl's daughter Amanda in 1996, and Stephanie's son Cody in 2001. Like Taylor’s parents, both women made the ultimate last decision for their children, choosing organ donation - something they believed their children would have wanted them to do.
Cheryl and Stephanie met and became friends through a support group for donor families. Both are advocates for organ donation. They have campaigned tirelessly, raised funds, given speeches, and now they are shining examples of friends who practice what they preach.
From Donor Moms to Living Donor and Recipient
Three years ago, Stephanie was diagnosed with a genetic form of kidney disease. Her mother, who received a kidney from her brother 32 years ago, had suffered the same disease. Stephanie’s kidneys had finally failed to the point that she either needed a kidney transplant - and soon - or she would have to start the (dreaded) dialysis… something I’m all too familiar with myself as I had personally spent a total of 11 years on dialysis before I received my last kidney transplant from my "living donor" sister 13 years ago.
Cheryl, who mentioned that she had been considering the idea of being a living donor for some time, found out that Stephanie was in need. Talking it over with her family, Cheryl made the decision to get tested and see if she would be a donor match for her good friend. It turned out that they were the same blood type, which is the prime consideration in living donation. After undergoing a month-long testing process, the friends found out that both were healthy enough to undergo the procedure and recover.
Cheryl said, “I have been preaching this message for 18 years now, of course I would do this… and she is my friend! We are pioneer women. I am almost 60 years old! I want to prove that age isn’t an excuse for anyone to not consider being a living donor.”
The transplant took place on October 16, 2014 in Tulsa where they both reside. The surgery to remove the kidney from Cheryl was done laparoscopically, which meant less recovery time in the hospital - always good news. Just two days after surgery, she was released with plans to return to work within two weeks. Stephanie was released within 4 days of surgery. The levels of toxins in her blood went from a very toxic 8 (caused by her natural kidneys no longer filtering properly), all the way down to a very normal 0.9 with her new kidney. She was up and walking the halls of the hospital the day after surgery. Stephanie’s natural (or native) kidneys were left in place and would only be removed if they present medical problems in the future.
Cheryl has been selected by Life Share Oklahoma to represent the state in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena California on New Year's Day. She'll be walking alongside the Donate Life float as both a Donor Mom and a living organ donor. Her daughter, Amanda’s, floragraph will be placed on the float along with many other donor “Heroes”. Cheryl will be the first "Donor Mom/Living Donor" ever to be in the same Rose Bowl Parade along with the floragraph of her child. I am blessed to know both of these wonderfully strong and courageous women.
Don't take your organs to Heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.
Register to be an organ donor, today.
Photo: Stephanie with her daughter Carissa, Kim, and Cheryl