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I Donated My Kidney To Save My Husband’s Life

I'd rather be with him in sickness than be without him altogether.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

This is LaPorsha Campbell's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

The week of our wedding, my husband was extremely ill and wasn't released from the hospital until two days before.

Desmond was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney disease, which quickly progressed to Stage 5 within a year. The disease is a condition where your kidneys are damaged and no longer filtering blood as they should. Most people go without diagnosis until nearing the end stages of full-blown kidney failure.

The cause of my husband's disease: Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

We discovered his diagnosis in 2018. Desmond was hospitalized with pneumonia and his kidney took a major hit that unfortunately, never recovered. The feeling that he was dying a slow death certainly had its effects. Dialysis was very hard on his body, he began showing physical changes, and most crushing of all, his spirit was so broken. So the decision to give him my kidney was a no-brainer—easy even.

It was the recovery that was hard…

My husband and I didn't have the same blood type, so I was unable to donate my kidney directly to him. Instead, in an amazing turn of events, he received a kidney from an anonymous donor, and in return, I donated my kidney anonymously to someone who had also been waiting on the transplant list. Our donation was facilitated through a paired kidney exchange program. Also known as a "kidney swap", this arrangement occurs when a living kidney donor is incompatible with the recipient, so they exchange kidneys with another donor/recipient pair. This kidney-paired donation transplant enables two incompatible recipients to receive a faster transplant, thus decreasing the open wait list time.

My family weren't initially the biggest fans of the donation process; they were scared with what participation could mean. It was somewhat of a relief to them finding out we weren't a match, as they preferred that I avoided surgery altogether. But, when I explained that I'd be donating to an anonymous recipient, they couldn't really understand.

I Married My Husband "In Sickness", Hoping To One Day Get To The "And In Health".

Courtesy of LaPorsha Campbell

My husband has spent the last two years of our relationship in and out of the hospital. Before he started dialysis, we practically lived in the hospital. We were unable to go on a honeymoon because immediately following our wedding, he needed to begin emergency dialysis.

Regardless, I took my vows seriously throughout the entire process, with literally zero intention of folding. I've had so many people tell me they'd never do what I did for their partner, but I made a vow to my husband and our families—in front of God—to always love and be there for him.

And aside from anything else, before I decided to donate my kidney, I consulted with God. I didn't want to go against His will, especially with such a huge decision.

Throughout, I felt God's presence right beside us. When a complete stranger came forward and said she'd give her kidney to my husband, a person she did not know, I knew it was God.

Desmond received a kidney in less than a year despite being told it could take years due to his blood type.

That was God too.

Post-Surgery Aftermath

Prior to my surgery, my husband was nervous; he doesn't like seeing me in pain. A few times, he suggested I change my mind about donating and that he could just wait on the list until his name came up, but at that point, me donating was bigger than him. I wasn't just saving his life. I was saving someone else's life, too.

Recovery was literally the hardest thing my body has ever had to go through, but it taught me to extend the same grace and patience to myself that I often gave to others. I prayed, I cursed, and I cried. My husband was my rock and showed me just as much assurance. His transplant surgery was a week before mine, but he somehow managed to care for me during my recovery. He did everything for me, while still recovering himself.

I was really bad at practicing self-care before my surgery, which almost caused a nervous breakdown. I was so fearful at times about my husband's health that it led to extreme anxiety and depression. This was all magnified because I couldn't talk with my husband about it. I didn't want him feeling guilty about being ill or for my concerns to affect his condition.

I was in a very dark place for a while.

I began taking antidepressants, which shockingly made all the difference. My depression became debilitating to my entire existence. I didn't feel like caring for myself—it took too much energy for me. I was just going through the motions and only trying to keep my family in one piece. I put on a brave face for my husband and daughter, yet inside, I was falling apart.

Returning To Health

Courtesy of LaPorsha Campbell

After a month of taking medication, I began feeling like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and I could finally think clearly again. I began opening up to my husband about feeling overwhelmed. To my surprise, being open and honest with him brought us closer. I began to meditate daily; doing yoga. Being open about what I was going through, and learning to not be afraid to ask for help, saved me.

We are finally starting to feel like ourselves again, and my husband also finally has his life back. Before, he was spending 12 hours a week on a machine to keep him alive. And now, he's no longer being admitted to the hospital every other week.

Time has returned to his side.

These days, we're getting settled with the aftermath of the last two years. The incurred debt, medical bills, emotional scars, etc. etc.

But most importantly, we're enjoying each other's lives—and our health.

I now preach to everyone the importance of knowing your health numbers, especially to people of color. One of the leading causes of kidney failure is high blood pressure. Both high blood pressure and diabetes are treatable with medication and lifestyle changes, but first, you have to know your numbers.

This means staying on top of your yearly physicals and making sure your doctor is checking your kidney function during your screening. You are your greatest advocate in terms of your health. Reduce your stress and live a healthy lifestyle.

To be honest with you guys, what I did for my husband was nothing new. It was nothing noble. Married couples do this for each other all of the time. If you aren't willing to temporarily face discomfort for your spouse—especially to save their life—you shouldn't be married. Marriage is an adjustment and it's work. Make sure you've chosen the right partner BEFORE walking down the aisle. Afterward, make a conscious decision to continue choosing that person over and over again.

My marriage is far from perfect, but I love my husband and I will always choose him. We're in this thing together, and I'm rockin' with him until the wheels fall off.

To learn more about LaPorsha and Desmond's kidney journey, you can watch this video. LaPorsha has also documented more details on her Instagram page.

If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

Featured Image Courtesy of LaPorsha Campbell

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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