With so many causes getting their own month or day for awareness the one focused on the need to donate a kidney has a special meaning for a Pauls Valley woman who gave simply as a way to help.
We're right in the middle of March's spotlight as National Kidney Awareness Month.
That's a very personal thing for Barbara Weatherford, who decided a long time ago donating one of her two kidneys was the way to make a difference.
Her journey toward giving led to an anonymous donation in 2019 that likely saved the life of an Oklahoma man who today appears to be healthy and enjoying the chance to be a part of his grandchildren's lives.
“If you're capable of changing somebody's life so drastically and their families, why wouldn't you want to do it to help somebody that needs the help,” Weatherford tells the PV Democrat.
“For me it's not a big deal because everybody is capable of doing it. If you've ever thought about it, do it.”
The strong desire to donate a kidney actually started for Weatherford when she was a teenager. Back then she just wanted to help somebody who needed help.
“When you don't have the funds to help then you can't donate money,” Weatherford said about helping any good cause.
“This is something I can do as a way to give back,” she said about the kidney donation.
She's quick to add it takes about a year to go through the testing process to donate. “They want to make sure that both of the people are healthy.”
The thought of donating went up a few notches when a few years ago it was learned a friend's mother needed a kidney.
“That's my sign. That's when I decided I'm going to do this. I wanted to donate, but I wanted it to help.”
Other factors kept her from donating then, but she was able to move forward after agreeing to donate one of her kidneys to an anonymous recipient.
With so many people out there in need of a kidney transplant, it didn't take long, exactly three days, for Weatherford to be contacted about a match being found.
Plans for the donation went forward as all she knew was the recipient was a male in his 50s from somewhere in Oklahoma, who had been on dialysis for a few years.
Then came the transplant, which was done at the OU Transplant Center on Halloween Day in 2019.
It was a couple of weeks later, during a routine follow-up, where Weatherford and the anonymous recipient of her kidney agreed to meet. She learned his name is Phillip Cates of Colbert.
“He was crying when I walked in,” she said.
“He said the doctor told him that without the donation he didn't think he was going to make it another year and his daughter was pregnant and he was afraid he wouldn't see his grandchild. Now he has three grandkids, and he's doing great.
“I've told him that you're my kidney brother now.”
Since then the idea of donating a kidney has grown even more personal for Weatherford as her own father, who once worked as an employee for the city of Pauls Valley, started dialysis in February. For him that means regular trips to Ardmore for treatments.
A look back to the day before her transplant surgery more than three years ago shows Weatherford was beginning to open up about something very personal.
“I wish that I could go door-to-door and talk to everyone about the importance of renal awareness. There are so many people in our community that needs a kidney. This is a matter of life and death. Dialysis can give some time, but it's not a solution for long-term.”
She also offers a sample of some of her thoughts today.
“This donation has meant a lot to me spiritually as a person. I'm so thankful that I was healthy enough to give.”
Since the donation Weatherford has even written a children's book about kidney disease, dialysis and donation. The hope is to soon get it published and have it available at all transplant and dialysis center.
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