Bossier woman meets her literal life saver

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Bossier resident Tracy Jones, left, recently met Candi Rath, the woman who donated a kidney to her. (Courtesy photo)

Tracy Jones, is a wife, mother, grandmother, and a loyal employee at the Bossier Council on Aging. Raised in Bossier, she has traveled near and far, but despite her travels, she will alway’s call Bossier home. A private woman who prefers to “fly under the radar,” only a handful of people knew that she was battling a deadly condition.

Tracy’s kidney function dropped to an unstable low, forcing her onto dialysis. That also meant it was time for her to find a donor and be put on a kidney transplant list.

“The diagnosis was a total shock. I had to pull over when the doctors office called and told me,” recalls Tracy. “I honestly thought I had the flu.” 

Of the handful of people who knew Tracy needed a transplant, her husband and her daughter were willing to donate, but couldn’t due to health conditions. Tracy would have to open up and let people know about her need, a tough request for a private woman who wasn’t used to asking for help.

“It was hard to ask for help, it was hard to face that I needed help, but I had to do it,” she said. “I was put on a kidney transplant list in Shreveport, but decided to expand the search to Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.”

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which manages the list of everyone across the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, more than 96,000 people currently are on the waiting list for a deceased-donor kidney. They’re facing at least an average three- to five-year wait, while they depend on a dialysis machine three times a week to do the work their kidneys no longer can.

Obtaining a kidney from a living donor eliminates that wait. Unfortunately, the number of people volunteering to donate a kidney doesn’t meet the demand. In 2017, 5,811 people received a kidney from a living donor, saving only 20 percent of those waiting for one.

Having been on the kidney transplant list for more than seven years, Tracy finally received the call in 2017 that would change her life forever.

“I remember being at work getting the call that they found a kidney. I was in complete shock,” she said. “I remember going to tell my boss the news and crying uncontrollably. She couldn’t understand me, I had to get myself together. Everyone was so excited for me, but I still didn’t want to show my excitement just in case it didn’t go through.”

When the day finally came for Tracy to receive her new kidney, she had emotions that ranged from happy and excited to nervous and humbled. 

“I remember telling my husband as I cried, ‘God is good. I am blessed,’” said Tracy.

After hours on the operating table, she successfully received her new kidney from a living donor, Candi Rath, a resident of Fort Worth, Texas.

Candi said she decided to go on the living donor kidney transplant list after watching one of her favorite television shows Grey’s Anatomy.

“I remember watching the show and the episode talked about becoming a living donor for people who are in desperate need of a transplant,” Candi said. “It stuck with me for years. And one day, a few years ago, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m not getting any younger and it will save someone’s life.”

On June 19 this year, Tracy had the opportunity to finally meet Candi, her donor.

“I was so nervous meeting Candi,” Tracy said. “She gave me my life back and I am internally grateful to her. I remember when we met my 12-year-old grandson saying to her ‘ Thank you for saving my grandma.’ She saved my life.”

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me through this process. Including the incredible team at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth. They were all amazing,” Traci added.

The average wait for a kidney from a deceased donor is about five years, more transplant centers urge people to consider a living kidney donor. 

“We are grateful for the selfless act of living kidney donors, who decide to give a kidney to a family member, a friend, or as an altruistic act to a stranger – thus quickly relieving a person from kidney failure, with excellent results, both in survival and quality of life,” said Dr. Nicholas Onaca, transplant surgeon for Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth.