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Author Topic: Amy Giddens  (Read 4591 times)
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« on: November 05, 2007, 11:20:12 am »

Sister-in-law's gift of love saves life of Sylacauga woman

Thanks to her sister-in-life, Tara Giddens, right, Amy Giddens has a new kidney. She is now on the donor’s list for a pancreas. Although the two were like sisters before the surgery, they are really sisters now, Giddens said. She even nicknamed her new kidney Tarama (Tara/Amy). 
Amy Giddens of Sylacauga didn’t have to ask anyone to be a donor when she learned earlier this year that she needed a kidney transplant.
Seven friends and family members came forward wanting to be tested to see if they could provide this generous donation of life to the 39-year-old mother.

Two matched Amy’s blood types, her sister-in-law Tara Giddens and her cousin Patsy Landers.

Tara is married to Tommy Giddens, the brother of Amy’s husband, Tim.

The two women’s blood was then tested for antigens and tissue type. There are six antigens they test for, Amy said, and at least one of those antigens must match the recipient.

“Tara and Patsy had three of the six antigens, which was close enough to be sisters,” Amy said.

Tara said she wanted to give her sister-in-law her kidney. “You have to know Amy. I never had a second thought about doing this. My husband and I discussed it. I was glad to do it for her,” she said.

“She was tested and they told us we were a sibling-type match. I didn’t expect anything better,” Amy said.

Amy’s husband was not able to attempt a donation because he has had cancer.

Amy found out Dec. 15, 2006, she would have to go on dialysis. She has Type 1 diabetes and has battled the disease for 27 years.

“Last October Lupus markers started showing up when my doctor was doing some tests on me. It happened so quickly and Dec. 15 my doctor told me I was in renal failure. I didn’t expect it. He told me I had to go on dialysis. I didn’t want to, but he said if I didn’t I would live only two to three weeks,” she said.

She was on dialysis for nine months prior to having her kidney transplant. UAB Hospital called her six months after she went on dialysis to begin testing for a kidney transplant.

In June she got the green light and that is when her family and friends decided to be tested as donors.

“They came forth and said they knew I would donate to them if they needed it. I’ve always been an organ donor. I found out so many organs have been wasted. For example, if a person dies in an accident, lots of times the emergency personnel don’t know the person is an organ donor if they don’t have the individual’s driver’s license. We could save so many lives if we had more donors. You can’t take it with you, let it help someone else is what I believe,” Amy said.

She was never placed on a cadaver transplant list because of her living donors.

But she is a supporter of organ donations and encourages everyone to do it.

Once Tara made the decision to donate her kidney, she was sent to UAB in August for an evaluation. She had to go through the same testing process as Amy.

She spent two days at the hospital and had to undergo a psychological evaluation.

“They told me everything was a go for the transplant after two days of testing,” Tara said.

The transplant team from UAB called Amy the second week in September to tell her the surgery would be performed Oct. 1.

“It usually takes up to a year to even have surgery. What happened to me was unheard of. I had surgery Oct. 1, and 22 days later I was home. I was told it usually takes six to eight weeks before you get to go home,” Amy said.

Tara came home within 48 hours after donating her kidney to Amy.

Amy said she was up walking the morning after surgery.

Before her surgery, Amy went three days a week for dialysis.

She had dialysis from 4:30 to 8:30 a.m., then would drive to Alexander City where she taught office careers at Central Alabama Community College.

She worked until the Friday before she went into the hospital on Sunday to have surgery.

Amy said she hopes to return to work after New Year’s.

Tara went back to her job at Vulcan Binders two weeks ago.

Neither has had health problems relating to the surgery.

Amy will remain on medication the rest of her life to keep her body from rejecting her new kidney.

“It has been amazing. My family and friends have been unbelievable during this. I’m so thankful I didn’t have to go on a waiting list. Sometimes it takes years to get an organ if you are on a list, and you just wait for a call,” she said.

Amy is a believer in what goes around comes around.

“I’ve always helped people, so I guess the first thing I thought is I helped people in need and people are helping me. People prayed for us all over town and around. We have had tons of support. That is why I was always at peace with having the transplant. I knew everything would fall in place,” Amy said.

Tara had the same peaceful feelings.

“Everything, from the beginning to the end, went so fast. I had a peace about it. It was meant to be,” she said.

Amy arrived home Oct. 23. She has to be careful with the arrival of flu and cold season.

Amy’s parents are Jimmy and Mildred Gilliland of Rockford.

She and Tim have a 7-year-old daughter, Erika.

Tara and her husband are parents of two teenagers.

The two women are now in research studies being performed by UAB on transplant patients to see how their bodies react to the surgeries and transplant. The study will also track Tara as a donor to see if any health issues come up for her.

Amy has also been placed on the pancreas transplant list because of her diabetes.

Amy said her end stage renal disease was a result of the lupus markers. She said her grandmother had the disease and her grandfather had diabetes.

“Lupus’ goal is to get your kidneys, and it got mine,” she said. “In a matter of weeks I went from healthy, other than my diabetes, to needing a kidney transplant.”

Dr. Jim Lewis, a kidney specialist at Princeton Medical Center in Birmingham, found Amy’s problem, while Dr. Mark Deierhoi performed the transplant at UAB. Deierhoi is the kidney and pancreas transplant specialist at the hospital.

Amy said she feels 180 percent better compared to when she was on dialysis.

“There was just so much medicine,” she said.

The entire time she was on dialysis, Amy was also going to Auburn University to get a master’s degree. She didn’t miss a class. She said the professors there were “awesome. They knew what was going on. Everyone at Auburn and CACC were so accommodating.”

Amy thanked everyone, from the members of her church, First Baptist Church of Oak Grove, to family and friends.

“I want to thank everyone that prayed, called, checked on us, sent cards and did whatever. That helped with the healing powers and I’m on my way to recovery,” she said. “I couldn’t have done anything without my parents. I’m an only child. My mother stayed with me at the hospital along with my husband. She cleaned my house and took care of my child. I want to thank my church family, my students and co-workers, too,” she said.

Amy stressed that anyone who is an organ donor needs to inform their family of that decision and it needs to go on the driver’s license.

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