Organ donor gives gift of a lifetime
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
For Nefeterius McPherson, Saturday’s West Virginia vs. Texas game was more than a record-breaking crowd at Darrell K. Royal- Texas Memorial Stadium or a history-making Mountaineer victory. It was a connection to the young girl who gave her the gift of life.
In 2005, during her first year as a law student at Southern Methodist University, McPherson was diagnosed with (the rare bile duct liver disease) (secondary sclerosing cholangitis.)
"I was told that I may, one day, need a liver transplant," she said. "Either one of those situations alone is stressful, but it was almost like my two worlds collided. You have this medical condition, and then you have law school. It’s just by the grace of God that I stayed sane."
In 2009, McPherson – relatively healthy at the time – moved to Washington D.C. to serve under the Obama administration as the as the press secretary for United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
McPherson said she knew Washington was where she belonged all along.
"I had always lived in Texas. I just knew I needed to move to D.C. I just knew that’s where I was supposed to be," she said.
By last May, McPherson’s condition worsened, and she was placed on a national liver transplant list.
Nov. 6, just 172 days after she was placed on the list, McPherson received a call from Georgetown University Hospital saying a match had been found.
McPherson’s donor was 12-year-old Taitlyn Hughes of Martinsburg, who died of a brain hemorrhage caused by an AVM rupture.
"It is amazing to me now when I look back on everything. See, I thought I was supposed to move to D.C. just to be a political appointee for the Obama administration. I now realize it was destined for me to move to D.C., because that’s where I was going to be transplanted," she said.
"You never really know what those plans are that God has for you. I look back on it now and think ‘wow.’ I thought I was going to D.C. for one reason, but I was clearly going for a couple of reasons."
Ever since her transplant, McPherson has made a commitment to carrying out Hughes’ story and maintaining contact with her family.
"I wanted to learn more about the person – the sweet 12-year-old – who gave me my second chance at life, who gave me the gift of life, she said. "I have just always felt like, first, it was meant for me to get her liver (and) second, I wasn’t supposed to keep this story to myself. I was supposed to tell the world, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do."
Ever since her transplant, McPherson said she’s stunned by the humility shown by such a young girl.
"What really struck me was finding out that at the tender age of 11, she made the decision that, if anything were to ever happen to her, she wanted to donate her organs and save lives.
I don’t know about you, but at age 11, I wasn’t thinking about those things," McPherson said. "To know that at age 11, she made such a grown-up decision – it’s just always resonated with me."
fifth-generation Texan, had the opportunity to attend last Saturday’s game in Austin.
However, McPherson wasn’t wearing burnt orange and white. Instead, she said she proudly wore Hughes’ WVU T-shirt during the game, which was on the 11-month anniversary of the transplant.
"I just always knew I had to be at that game," she said. "I seized it as an opportunity to say ‘I’m from Texas, and my organ donor is from West Virginia. This is her shirt, and it is an honor to wear it to this game today.’"
Currently, there are more than 115,000 people
waiting for an organ transplant, she said. Another name is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
McPherson said she has dedicated her time to telling the world how organ donation saved her life.
"The downside to that is that 18 people die each day, unfortunately, because there are not enough donors," she said. "And so I speak out about Taitlyn’s story, about my story because I want to help debunk some of those myths that are out there."
McPherson said the gift she has received and the connection she has with Hughes will be one she forever treasures, and wishes she could repay.
"Thank you, sweet girl, for unselfishly donating your organ to save people like me," she said. "I can never repay you for the gift, but I do know you wanted to help change the world – and I’m determined to help you do just that."