Albany woman meets donor after 21 year wait for kidney transplant

Albany woman meets donor after 21 year wait for kidney transplant
Chakeeta Jones (left) and Eileen Gorton (Source: WALB)
Chakeeta Jones (left) and Eileen Gorton (Source: WALB)
Chakeeta was on dialysis for over 20 years. (Source: WALB)
Chakeeta was on dialysis for over 20 years. (Source: WALB)
WALB Meteorologist Andrew Gorton is Eileen's son. (Source: WALB)
WALB Meteorologist Andrew Gorton is Eileen's son. (Source: WALB)
Dr. Christina Klein (Source: WALB)
Dr. Christina Klein (Source: WALB)

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - Albany resident Chakeeta Jones waited over 20 years for a kidney.

We've followed her through her journey to find a donor, which had some speed bumps along the way.

But two years ago, she found a living donor who, after seeing Chakeeta's story on our newscast, wanted to do whatever she could to help.

Just last week, Chakeeta got to meet her living donor.

WALB News 10's Catherine Patterson was there to capture it all and met the donor who has a special connection to WALB.

Worth the wait

She had to wait six months to meet her donor.

Chakeeta said those six months were even tougher to handle than the 21 years she waited for the actual kidney.

"Here we go," said Chakeeta's donor as she walked into the room to meet Chakeeta.

It was an introduction that's been 21 years in the making.

"Chakeeta? Hi! I'm your donor," she said.

With an overwhelming range of emotions, Chakeeta repeated, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

"You deserve it," the donor responded with a whisper while hugging Chakeeta,

It's a day Chakeeta never thought she'd experience.

Persevering positivity

Chakeeta's journey hasn't been an easy one.

"I've waited so long for this day. I'm glad it's here," said Chakeeta.

Her doctors called her kidney transplant nothing short of a miracle.

"I was on dialysis for 21 years," explained Chakeeta.

That was 21 years of spending hours every week at the dialysis clinic. Not to mention she lost over 170 pounds to be healthy enough for a transplant.

"It was hard," Chakeeta said. "But I had my faith to lean on."

And it's her strength that caught WALB's attention back in 2015.

One year after that, Chakeeta was told there was a kidney for her, only to discover that kidney was too small.

When WALB reported the heartbreaking update, it caught one special viewer's attention: First Alert Meteorologist Andrew Gorton's mother, Eileen Gorton.

"It just broke my heart," said Eileen.  "It just absolutely devastated me.  At that moment I knew, if there was something I could do, I wanted to do that."

Eileen said she's always been an organ donor, but didn't know how she'd be able to help Chakeeta.

"To be honest, until I read Chakeeta's story, I didn't know that there was an option to be a living donor for a kidney," she said.

It's a misconception that Dr. Christina Klein said perpetuates the shortage of kidney transplants across the nation.

"Over 150,000 people are waiting in the U.S. for a kidney transplant, and we're only transplanting about 10 percent of them per year," said Dr. Klein, Medical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at Piedmont Hospital.

But Eileen was determined to make Chakeeta a part of that ten percent.

Helping across the country

She didn't let distance get in the way.

She got her lab work in her hometown of Dallas, Texas and traveled back and forth to Atlanta for medical workups to make sure they were, in fact, a match.

"Just through the series of four sets of cross matches, we got to this point," said Eileen.

And at this point, Chakeeta has a new organ, a new life, and most of all, a new friend.

"I thank you so much, so much, for loving me, a stranger.  Loving me enough to give of yourself. I'm just grateful.  I'm so grateful.  I am," Chakeeta said to Eileen.

Eileen said her health hasn't been negatively affected at all by the transplant.

And for Chakeeta, she said she's never felt better.

According to The National Kidney Foundation, every day 12 people die waiting for a kidney.

If you'd like to be an organ donor, you can join your state's online registry for donation here.

If you're considering becoming a living donor, here is more information about kidney donations.

You can learn more about the National Kidney Foundation and organ donations here.

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