Woman's three-year wait for kidney donor is over

Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wilhelmenia Luke Freeman recently got the call she's been waiting on for more than three years.

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The caller told Wilhelmenia to pack her bags because the donated kidney she desperately needed was available.

"We thought we hit the lottery," said her daughter, Lakeisha Freeman. "That's what it felt like."

Wilhelmenia's new kidney was transplanted during a more than three-hour surgery Thursday at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

"She's a little drowsy. She's in a lot of pain, but that is to be expected," Lakeisha said, adding that her mother appears to be recuperating well and thus far has shown no signs of rejection.

All the Freemans know, because of privacy laws, is that the kidney came from a 24-year-old man who had an accident on his job in Duluth, Ga.

Wilhemenia, of Appling, nearly missed the lifesaving and life-changing call. She was talking to her daughter on her home phone when her cell phone rang about 9 p.m. Sept. 15. She didn't answer it and was listening to the voicemail when Lakeisha walked in.

"She was listening to the voicemail and she's like shaking, just trembling," Lakeisha said. "Her hands were just trembling."

Since Wilhemenia started dialysis in February 2006, her family and friends have held many fundraisers to raise the necessary money for post-surgery anti-rejection medications. Lakeisha planned to donate a kidney to her mother, but was devastated to find out she was not a match.

So Wilhelmenia had the funds, but no kidney.

For more than three years, Wilhelmenia has spent four hours a day, three days a week at a Grovetown dialysis clinic.

That phone call was the blessing the family had been waiting for.

"We were screaming and hollering and jumping up and down," Lakeisha said the day after the surgery. "It was really a blessing. It was amazing. I still feel like we're in a dream."

No one thought to inform Wilhelmenia's dialysis clinic of the transplant news. Since Wednesday is her normal dialysis day and she didn't show up, personnel called to check on her, Lakeisha said.

Doctors told Lakeisha it usually takes about three days to confirm the kidney is functioning well.

Wilhelmenia, who was quite active before her kidneys failed from years of hypertension, must take it easy for two or three weeks. Lakeisha said her mother never enjoyed having to schedule around dialysis appointments and is looking forward to life without them.

"She's ready to go," Lakeisha said, "to start back traveling, to get her life back."



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