Nurse Allison Batson donated one of her own kidneys to 23-year old patient, Clay Taber; somebody she barely knew, after working on the transplant department of Emory University Hospital for over two years. Allison was not even Clay’s primary nurse, but says she felt an instant connection with him.

Taber, from Columbus, Ga., became ill when he was 22, and eventually suffered from complete kidney failure. He started feeling sick and suffered occasional night sweats. At first tests came back positive for some signs of monocucleosis (infection with the Epstein-Barr virus), however, subsequent tests showed that his kidneys were in failure. Taber’s mother says she was shopping for some groceries when the hospital telephoned, explaining that new tests had showed that her son was in complete kidney failure and that he had to be admitted to hospital straight away.

Taber was diagnosed with Goodpasture’s syndrome – a very rare disorder in which the patient’s immune system attacks the kidneys and lungs, as if they were harmful pathogens. Goodpasture’s syndrome often occurs after a viral infection, inhaling gasoline, or inhaling some other type of hydrocarbon solvent. Taber and his family wondered whether his recent vacation in the Gulf of Mexico, where he swam in water that had been affected by the oil spill, may have been a contributory factor.

Fortunately for Taber, his diagnosis was made before his lungs had been attacked by his immune system. However, he urgently needed a kidney transplant. He became a patient in the transplant unit of Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, where nurse Batson worked.

The patient’s mother and other family members did not qualify as kidney donors. Initially, his mother appeared to be a good donor match. However, the doctors found that the lining of her kidneys was not thick enough to remove one. Batson, who has four children herself, said she really related to Taber’s mother’s plight. Then, it occurred to her that perhaps she could come forward as a donor herself. She discussed her thoughts with her family, who all supported her decision to become a kidney donor.

Batson, who says her children are around the same age as Clay, was really touched; she added “We really connected.”

Batson said:

“Immediately, when Clay came onto our unit, he became a special patient that everyone just gravitated to. Here was this young man with everything in his life ahead of him, and he was fighting for his life. He quickly became friends of many of the staff, and really was just a tremendous inspiration to us all.”

Taber joined 90,000 other Americans who had been waiting for a donor kidney. Doctors informed him that it would probably take from between three to five years before a suitable organ could be found for him. Taber, who explained that he and Batson had only known each other for six weeks, described what happened as “A blessing from God. I’ve got a piece of her in me and I will forever. She will have a special dance at my wedding” (Taber gets married this year in June).

In a press release, Batson said:

“People have asked me why I would do this for a stranger, or what if I had a family member in need one day, or why would I risk my own life or health for someone I barely know. My answer is because I can. Sure, I have children who might possibly be in need one day, but here was this young man right in front of me who needs help – today, and I am in a position to help him – today. If what I do for Clay causes more awareness among others that live organ donation is a possibility, then I can only hope that other lives will be saved because of my actions.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist