Georgia nurse donates kidney to patient in need

Emory Woodruff Health Sciences Center
allison batson, clay taber, nurse donates kidney
Emory Woodruff Health Sciences Center

"If I can save your life, you can count on me." That's what nurse Allison Batson told 23-year-old Clay Taber of Columbus, Ga., when he was admitted to the hospital for kidney failure.

Batson wasn't just talking about her abilities as a nurse. Taber had come to the Emory Hospital in Atlanta in need of an emergency transplant - and the nurse offered to donate her kidney.

Taber was a recent college graduate, set to marry his college sweetheart, who had recently come back from a vacation at the Gulf of Mexico - not long after the oil spill that had lasted more than three months. After feeling ill weeks after the vacation, Taber underwent a series of blood tests - and soon learned he was in complete kidney failure.

"I was in the grocery store when my phone rang," Taber's mother, Sandra, said in an Emory University written statement. "It was the doctor's office and they told me...he needed to get to a hospital immediately. Needless to say, it was one of those phone calls no parent ever wants to receive about their child."

Taber was diagnosed with a rare life-threatening autoimmune disorder called Goodpasture's Syndrome that affects approximately one in a million people. The disease is caused by the body's immune system fighting its own normal tissues by creating antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys. In Taber's case, it may have been triggered by the inhalation of hydrocarbon solvents found in crude oil, according to Emory University.

When he arrived at the hospital, Taber "became a special patient that everyone just gravitated to," said Batson, a transplant nurse at Emory Hospital. "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."

As Taber waited for a possible organ match, Batson learned more about him. "The whole world was his, with the exception of this incredibly rare illness that hit him out of the blue. I have children his age, and I felt the same kind of pain his mother was feeling. Something inside me said I needed to do more," she said.

Batson learned that she was the same blood type (O-negative) as Taber, and offered to be screened for organ donation "if it ever came to it." And after months of unsuccessful searching for a match, she said, "My offer stands. If you'll let me do this, I want to help you."

How did Taber respond? "When she said 'If you'll let me,' there was just something in those words. I couldn't say no."

"For someone to do that after knowing me for all of six weeks is incredible," he told USA Today. "It's a blessing from God."

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, both Batson and Taber underwent surgery. Both procedures were successful, and Taber was the proud owner of a new kidney.

After some last-minute glitches that had caused worries that the plan would not work out, Batson and Taber decided to name the kidney - as is standard practice - "Glitch."

In the U.S., there are now more than 110,000 people waiting for a heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas or intestine, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department estimates that 18 Americans die every day while waiting for an organ that never becomes available.