WATCH: Two Tennessee Women Are Forever Connected After Successful Kidney Transplant
"Jenny made a selfless act to be an organ donor."
The past year has been an emotionally-trying and scary time for both Erica Walker and Jenny Williams. The two women started the year as mere acquaintances but will be finishing it as friends, forever bonded by the kidney transplant that unexpectedly brought them together.
Walker, 36, is a middle-school teacher from Memphis and single parent of a 2-year-old. Williams, also of Memphis, is a mother of five daughters, ranging in age from 8 to 16. Beyond passing each other at the church they both attend, Heartsong United Methodist, they didn’t really know each other.
But when Walker, who was awaiting a kidney transplant due to diabetes complications, asked the congregation to pray for her health, Williams didn’t just pray on Walker’s behalf—she decided to do something. Williams first reached out to Walker on Facebook to confirm that she was a match, and that she was prepared to commit the selfless act of donating her kidney.
"She [Williams] told me she had to do some more testing, but so far, from everything they were telling her, she was my donor," Walker told ABC News. "I had to sit down on the sidewalk outside because all I could do was cry."
The process of determining whether or not she was a match was a lengthy one, with Williams undergoing nearly six months of pre-transplant testing. But for Williams, the poking and prodding was all worth it, if it meant giving Walker a second chance at life.
"I look at my kids and can’t imagine them being without a mom or even having to face the idea," Williams said. "It might be a little of pain, but, in the end, it’s giving her life and making sure that Karli [Walker’s daughter] will have a mom."
On September 12, 2017, Walker and Williams went in for transplant surgery at a Memphis-area hospital. Both procedures were successful, and the two are now at home recovering. They are expected to return to work in the next three to six weeks.
"It was an amazing feeling," Walker said of the first time she saw Williams after the transplant. "To know that there was somebody out there in this world who listened to God and cared enough to put themselves through a surgery like that so I could see my daughter grow up. It’s changed everybody connected to me, even down to the students I teach, and it’s all because Jenny made a selfless act to be an organ donor."
As far as the two becoming fast friends, we can only look to the naming of their kidneys as evidence of their inevitable bond. Before the transplant, Williams named her kidneys "Simon" and "Garfunkel" based on the legendary folk-rock duo. Walker was given Garfunkel and Williams kept Simon.
When asked whether they plan to spend any time together post-recovery, Williams said they are now "officially joined forever."
"And Garfunkel has to see Simon," added Walker.
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More than 120,000 people in the United States are listed for an organ transplant. Find out how you can become a donor by visiting organdonor.gov.