Two strangers, bonded by organ transplant, just met for the first time Monday at Children's Medical Center Dallas. The meeting comes seven months after her surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Emotions ran high as 10-year-old LeeAnn prepared to meet her kidney donor, but when the moment came, she was overcome with shyness.
"We can all take a deep breath, thanks to you," her mother Tiffany Fincher told her donor.
Fincher said her daughter is usually full of smiles and sass, but the identical twin has had a rough road. Born with no bladder and a failing kidney, she spent many birthdays in the hospital and four and a half years on dialysis. She even had her hopes dashed twice waiting for a kidney, until Lisa James, an Arlington mother of three, stepped in.
"Oh my goodness, it was so emotional because we had been to that point ready for transplant three times," Fincher said.
James, a dialysis social worker, joined the registry after her 48th birthday. Within months, she got the call she was a perfect match. Then came the news, last July, LeeAnn was too sick for surgery.
"And I said, well I'm waiting for my perfect match.. and that was you," James told LeeAnn.
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"When we found out, it was just relief," Fincher said.
"And so September 17 was our perfect day," said James.
LeeAnn's family hopes to celebrate "New Life Day" with James each year.
Fincher, a mother of five with one on the way, said they're all forever changed.
They're thankful, full of joy and no longer bound to the hospital.
"She's a very one of a kind, special kind of person. I don't know anybody that could do something so selfless for a complete stranger," Fincher said.
James said she only took two weeks off work and recovered fully within two months. She said the whole experience was more than worth it. Her kids call it awesome.
"It really was just so rewarding, what a cool thing to be a part of," she said.
April is National Donate Life Month. Celebrations may be winding down, but it's never too late to join the registry. Here in Texas, more than 8,000 people are on the transplant wait list. 80 percent of them need a kidney. Visit Donate Life Texas, if you'd like to learn more about becoming a living donor.