HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A Hanover mother will soon donate a kidney to her daughter, whose kidneys failed during a different transplant.
Heather James finds motivation in a photograph on her nightstand. The smiling woman inside the frame is a person Heather has never met.
“Anne means so much to me,” says Heather. “I just feel that there are parts of Anne that shine through me every day.”
The Mechanicsville woman has been climbing uphill since she was four weeks old. Cystic Fibrosis attacked Heather's lungs, but she didn't allow the disease from robbing her childhood.
“I had my first hospitalization at the end of third grade,” says Heather. “It is hard not being able to breathe.”
Heather excelled in dance recitals and the classroom; she graduated fifth at Hanover High School.
“It was one of the most amazing nights of my life,” she said. “A few months before prom I was on life support in the hospital.”
Lauren James marvels at her daughter's will.
“She is my baby. We’re best friends. I’m going to do everything I can to help her. She has always been a fighter. She always has.”
By Heather’s late teens her lungs and liver were failing. She was forced to drop out of VCU after one month. She desperately needed a transplant.
“I had to wait nine months for that life-saving call.”
Anne, a 52-year-old mother of two, lost her life to a brain aneurysm. Her family donated life-saving organs to Heather, but during the 14-hour surgery Heather's kidneys failed. She now endures four hour dialysis treatments, three times a week.
Heather is need of another transplant. She didn't have to look far for a donor. The woman who gave Heather life is donating her kidney.
“Never a doubt,” says Lauren James. “May 6th is my birthday and I can’t think of a better gift for me to be able to give that to my daughter.”
Following the kidney transplant, this inseparable pair will be even closer.
“I was so honored that my mother would go under surgery for me. She is so wonderful,” says Heather.
“It’s amazing,” says Heather. “I love her so much.”
The 22-year-old says she is grateful for the sacrifices of Mom and Anne.
“They made that choice to donate those organs and I could never waste that gift,” says Heather.
Recently, Heather received a letter from the daughters of her donor Anne. In the letter, Anne’s daughters detail how happy their late-mother lives on through Heather.
“Heather we are so lucky that you decided to reach out. We deeply appreciate your condolences for our loss. We are so glad you have this new lease on life. We are strong believers in what is meant to be and we know you were supposed to carry on a piece of mom for the rest of your life.”
Heather says she cherishes the letter. She even carries a copy of the letter in her wallet.
“This is the single most important letter I’ve received,” says Heather.
How do you thank someone for giving so much? Heather James lives the answer each day.
“Never give up. Life is worth fighting for. We only get one life and we need to make the most of it.”
The kidney transplant will take place at Duke University in North Carolina.
Heather recently completed the 5K walk benefitting the United Network of Organ Sharing. Heather is an ambassador for UNOS.
Heather has been in touch with Anne’s family. She is hoping to meet her donor’s two daughters someday soon.
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