Daris Lee got a kidney.
Readers may remember Lee from a Christmas Eve editorial wishing for a miracle. Lee is the manager of health and wellness at Bonton Farms, the nonprofit that is revitalizing an underserved community in southeast Dallas. Lee was on dialysis for 12 years. His condition was deteriorating.
But we’re happy to report that miracles do happen in North Texas. Before Christmas Eve was over, we heard from one generous reader who matched Lee’s blood type and offered to donate a kidney if the doctors approved. Other news outlets also told Lee’s story, and five or six other people started the approval process in the following days, Lee told us.
But none of them would be needed. About midnight on Jan. 4, Lee got a call from UT Southwestern Medical Center. He was told there may be a donor match, a patient who was brain dead and had registered to be an organ donor. There was someone else in line ahead of Lee, but that person may not be able to take the kidney. Lee was next in line. Stay tuned.
Lee went to bed but couldn’t sleep. Remarkably, his thoughts were with the other candidate.
“I know there are people out here who are in deeper need than I am,” Lee said. “If it could be better for somebody else, then so be it. If he got it, that’s cool too. Good for him.”
An hour later, the phone rang again. A coordinator asked how soon he could get to the hospital.
“I told him, ‘With my past driving record, I could be there in five minutes,’” Lee laughed.
Lee’s boss, Stephanie Bohan, insisted on driving him. Her husband is a nurse at UTSW. She stayed with him all night, only leaving the next afternoon when she got word that the surgery had been successful, she told us.
At 8 p.m. Jan. 5, when Lee woke up in recovery, his new kidney had already been working. He had never been so happy to see urine.
“They told me that normally you have to have one or two dialysis treatments just to get the kidney started,” Lee said. “But I haven’t had another dialysis since the surgery.
“I feel like I’m still in a dream I don’t want to wake up from. I can’t explain how great I feel, and the support, knowing I’ve got people sending me messages and praying for me all over the world.”
Lee’s story has a happy ending, but there are thousands of others still waiting for theirs. More than 8,300 Texans need a kidney, according to the American Kidney Fund. Nationwide, more than 107,000 people need an organ transplant of some kind. Those stories will only have happy endings if people register to be organ donors, just like one of our generous readers did, just like Lee’s donor did.
Lee doesn’t know the identity of the person who very possibly added years to his life. He would like to. He has a message for the donor’s family.
“Just to let them know that [they] gave an organ that’s going to always be giving,” Lee said. “With the work we’re doing in the community, this kidney is always going to be giving back.”