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Being a living donor is an ‘amazing journey’

Jennifer Terry of Euless didn’t realize when she chose to give birth to her son, Jaxson, she was choosing life – a life for herself.

Terry suffers with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and three years ago, following Jaxson’s birth, both of her kidneys failed and had to be removed.

Terry’s story made many turns leading to her kidney transplant on Thursday, Sept. 29. It is a six month journey leading back to Dana Ladd of Mount Vernon, a graduate of Texas A&M University in Commerce.

“I felt on my heart I could be a living donor,” said Ladd, an education consultant for Region 8, coach’s wife and mother of two sons.

Terry was never supposed to have a child, but when she found out she was pregnant her strong faith pushed her to put his life above her own. Jaxson’s father, Blake Ladd, played a crucial role in the fate of his child’s mother. Dana Ladd is Jaxson’s aunt, a relative that Terry said she barely knew until the hospital told her that Ladd had gotten tested and come up a perfect match.

“When I would pray for Jennifer I had always thought of someone dying [and donating],” explained Ladd, a life long believer in organ donation.

A living donor story on the news spurred Ladd’s research; finding out 95 percent of recipients will live a full life with a living donor.

She said Jaxson put it all in perspective.

“She has two [kidneys]. We share at school. In the eyes of a child, we are just sharing. …I’m giving her half of my sandwich,” she said with a smile.

It was quite a journey for the Ladd family. She said just the paper work alone took a week to complete. She was pleased to score 100 percent in one kidney and 110 percent in the other. However, she still had concerns. Her youngest son, Jonathan, is a senior and plays football and her husband, Stephen, coaches. As a former TAMU-C cheerleader, she didn’t want to miss any games or be a burden on her family or her oldest son, Christian.

Ladd was hoping the transplant could take place during the summer and recalled thinking, “OK God, I can donate this kidney, but here is the time frame.”

When it didn’t, she consoled herself with the support of her family and many others and made the Mount Vernon Tigers open date their new goal.

“It just worked out, the hurdles I had to go through,” said Ladd, donating her left kidney to Terry.

Baylor Hospital only performs two transplants every Thursday.

“It was a miracle they had an open slot on our open date. Everything just worked out, and they didn’t miss a practice.”

Ladd reported her doctor said the work she did eating right and exercising in preparation for the transplant made a big difference in her recovery and her only real side effect is making sure she stays hydrated with water. 

Ladd was in (the fairly non-evasive) surgery for just over two hours and released on the following Saturday while Terry was released on the following Monday. Eventually, Ladd’s one kidney will function as well as the two did.

“It has been a great, great thing for me. Being a living donor may not be for everyone, people out there might be considering it or maybe have never heard of it, I would encourage people to look at the research and check the success rate – Baylor’s is very high,” said Ladd. “I am very pleased with my care.”

Before the surgery, Terry lived a life in which her days consisted of three hours of dialysis, completely wiping out her energy.

“Jennifer, a 40-year old mother of a 4-year old, is doing great. She will live a full life,” said Ladd. “She deserves to have a full and happy life.”

Terry has since moved on and is making plans to marry, Steven Rothfuss. The couple plans to wed on Sept. 29, 2012, her one-year anniversary of the transplant.

“We are so happy for them,” said Ladd, who will be at the wedding. “In fact, my father-in-law is performing the ceremony.”

Yet, these two ladies have a stronger bond than any marriage. They even created a Facebook page entitled Jennifer Dana Transplant, documenting their journey.

Is being a living donor is her way of saving a life?

“I would do it again in a heart beat,” replied Ladd. “It has been an amazing journey.”