The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 31, 2014

Patrick’s sacrifice: Soldier’s organ donation aided former Jet woman

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — When Jet native Nita French was 24 years old, and 25 weeks into a pregnancy with her first child, she was hospitalized for declining kidney functions. It was a Wednesday.

By that Friday, she began dialysis. On the following Sunday, doctors entered her hospital room and said they were going to perform an emergency c-section.

“They took me in and delivered my baby,” French told Enid Noon AMBUCS Friday. “She weighed 18 ounces and was 12 inches long.”

French explained to the club she was diagnosed at the age of 12 with diabetes.

“I had to learn how to check my blood sugar, give myself three shots a day and watch what I ate,” she said. “I did pretty well with that.”

However, while in college, she began having problems with her health, trading in hours of high school sports for sedentary study sessions and pizza binges.

“After I graduated from college, I started having problems with my eyes and had to have laser surgery,” she said.

The same day she found out she was pregnant was the same day she was diagnosed with declining kidney function.

During her pregnancy, French said she had trouble controlling her blood sugar. Her blood pressure would spike. She had to quit her job after co-workers discovered her on the floor after passing out. She had to move in with her parents.

Then came her hospitalization. It was after her daughter was born that doctor’s dropped another bombshell.

“They told me, ‘You’re going to need a transplant,’” French told the club. “I was dumbfounded. I remember just lying there trying to process those words, ‘a transplant.’ What does that mean?”

French said for about a year “life was OK” and she was feeling pretty well. In September 1999, she was placed on the transplant list. Then things took a turn for the worse.

“In March of the next year, I felt like I was dying and almost wanted to because my blood became toxic,” she said, noting she underwent dialyses three times a week. “It is draining. It is very difficult for your body. It makes you very tired and I had a toddler at home.”

In August, French got a call in the middle of the night saying they had organs for her. However, after arriving at the hospital and checking in, she was told the transplant was not going to happen.

“So I went back home, back to dialyses three days a week and back to being very sick,” she said. “I waited almost another year.”

This time, in July 2001, she got the middle-of-the-night call saying there were organs for her. This too was a false alarm.

“I was tired. I was really tired of being sick and I was really tired of being in pain,” French said. “I was really tired of telling my little girl I was too tired to go out and play.”

French said she was feeling sorry for herself and when she went to dialyses, she sat and cried for three hours during the procedure.

Finally, in October 2011, French got the call from the transplant coordinator, again telling her there were organs. But this time, French said she knew it was different.

“I could hear it in his voice,” she said. “It was like Christmas.”

She again went to the hospital for surgery. She began waiting at 6 p.m., then came 8, 10 and by midnight she had fallen asleep.

“At 6 (a.m.) they took me into surgery,” she said. “They gave me a new kidney and pancreas and I woke up a completely new person.”

Now, French said her doctors say she is the picture of health.

French then showed a picture of the young soldier in his dress uniform.

“All of that is because of this man,” she said, “who sat down with his parents one day and said, ‘Hey, if something should happen to me, I don’t want you to have to make a choice.’’

The soldier French identified as Patrick was her donor. She said his mother initially did not want to donate her son’s organs, but then remembered his wishes.

French then offered this advice: “Sit down with your family right now. Don’t think it’s morbid. Don’t think it’s weird. I just encourage you to talk about it. Talk to your friends.”

French said there are about 100,000 people on the transplant list. Each day, 19 of those people will die.

French rode in last year’s Rose Bowl Parade, on float for organ donors and their recipients. She carried Patrick’s picture with her as she rode.

“I held Patrick’s picture while I rode the float because he is the reason why I was there,” she said. “He has given me so many gifts. I owe him for so many things.”

French then shared another photograph with the Noon AMBUCS, this one of four children. French said the oldest child, who was holding a smiling baby, was her first daughter.

“I am the only woman in the world to bear three children after an organ transplant,” French said. “They’re here because of what Patrick did for me.

“I encourage you to think about how you can be someone’s light. How you can give someone life and let them share their light.”

To register as an organ donor, go to www.lifeshare