SSM Health Medical Minute: Living organ donation a year later

Thanksgiving is a time to pause and be thankful, and for two cousins it means more than ever. One is alive thanks to the living organ donation of the other.

We first met Tara Hicks and Monetta Lawson a year ago, just a week before Monetta was set to give her kidney to her cousin. The two cousins are as close as sisters and Monette didn’t think twice about giving Tara the life saving gift.

Tara’s kidneys went into failure a few years ago, causing her to spend more than 9 hours a night on dialysis. But after the life-saving procedure, she was living without a machine and having a true second chance to life.

“I never thought of doing anything else. I mean, yeah, it’s a sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make just to see her happy," said Monetta.

But following surgery, Tara Hicks and Monetta Lawson admit recovery was harder than they anticipated. Both enduring some pain. But once they both felt better, it was Tara who was hesitant to trust the new kidney. It was hard to believe she could live without the machine that she trusted to keep her alive.

“At first, it was just scary because you don’t know if that kidney is going to work for you,” Tara said.

But with the support of her extended family and her cousin, Tara was able to start enjoying her life again. Her skin cleared up. Her energy came back. Her personality blossomed again.

“This whole experience has been phenomenal to see her enjoying her life," Monetta said.

Dr. Henry Randall, SLUCare Surgical Director of Transplants at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital, said that living organ donation is the best type of transplant for the donor. They last longer than cadaver organs. And although there is no confirmed research to back the common claim that the recipient of organs take on some characteristics of the organ donor, these cousins believe it. They showed up to our interview in nearly the same shirt. And recently at their family Halloween party, they both showed up dressed as police ladies. Tara calls Monetta her angel and gave her a special Pandora bracelet so she knows just how thankful she is for the gift of life.

“I would do it all over again if I had the opportunity," Monetta said.

For more information about organ donation, visit SSMHealth.com.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Thursday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.​