March 13 is World Kidney Day – ironically, it is also the day that Baton Rouge native Shawanga Hall is traveling home from Los Angeles after becoming a kidney donor to her sister-in-law, Keisha Hall.
Shawanga and Keisha traveled to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in February, and on March 4, the transplant had been completed.
Keisha had received three previous transplants in past years – one from her mother, her sister and one from her brother, Howard, Shawanga’s husband – all three failed.
When it had become apparent that Keisha was in need of a life-saving transplant again, Shawanga said there was no hesitation on her part to volunteer. It’s because becoming a donor is something that she’s said she’s known she would do since she was eight-years-old.
“The decision was never a struggle – I never thought about it twice,” Shawanga said. “It was always something I knew I would do – I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would take place. The fact that it was my husband’s best friend assured me that I landed in the perfect place at the perfect time.”
Shawanga said that once she had decided to become Keisha’s donor, she was at peace.
The Halls’ donor process began in 2013 when Shawanga tested to see if she was a match. At that time, blood work revealed that she was a very close match for Keisha. Unfortunately Keisha’s blood count became low and she received a transfusion that somewhat altered her chances of receiving a successful transplant from Shawanga.
Plasmapheresis would have to happen to bring the two closer to their near perfect match again. Plasmapheresis is a similar treatment to dialysis, as it is a cleansing method, but instead of cleansing the blood, this procedure removes antibodies.
When someone is found to be a donor match, blood work continues to happen up until the day before the transplant to constantly be sure the donor is still a match. The day before the transplant was to initially happen, Keisha’s blood count was a 354 – it needs to be a 301 for a successful transplant. The surgery was delayed, but only for a few weeks.
Shawanga said that doctors expect she is the last donor Keisha will ever need because the organ is not genetically linked, like the three previous attempts.
“My thoughts after the transplant were that I finally completed part of my purpose and I was filled with so much joy and completeness,” she said. “In knowing that not only did I give [Keisha] a piece of me, which is connected to her best friend – my husband, but I also extended her life.”
World Kidney Day aims to raise the importance of kidneys to overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.
In recognition of World Kidney Day, Shawanga had this message:
“I would just like to thank God for me. I’m always thanking Him for everyone and everything else, but I think its ok to thank Him for me this time. I thank Him for allowing me to be able to help give life to someone else. What everyone doesn’t know is that I’ve always been a donor and it has been on my [driver’s] license ever since I was 18 years of age. I always knew I would give, I just didn’t know who it would be and when the time would be that God would have me to do it. When I say God has perfect timing – He does! He strategically placed me with my soul mate so I could be a blessing to his sister. This is truly why I believe in always praying for God’s will to be done, because when it is, there’s a peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst. I truly love my life. Happy World Kidney Day to my [recipient] Keisha Hall and all other donors and recipients!”
By: Leslie D. Rose
Assistant Managing Editor