“How can somebody give me part of their body to make my body better?"
That somebody is Freida Bates, a mother, grandmother and co-worker, who, on Friday, July 24, gave an extraordinary gift to Bridget Madden, a co-worker she knew very little about.
When she learned that Bridget needed a kidney and that she was a match, Freida donated one of her kidneys, prompting Bridget's humble and profound question.
Volunteering to donate an organ was as natural as breathing for Freida. She has been a blood, platelet and plasma donor since she was 18 years old, giving as often as she is allowed. She's also registered as a national bone marrow donor. Freida said she figures that if she has something Bridget could use to make her live longer, she can't see not sharing it. Donating her kidney is something God led her to do, she said.
The pair have worked in the Emergency Care Center (ECC) at Floyd Medical Center for more than 15 years, although Freida, a Patient Access representative, said she didn't know much about Bridget, who, until recently had been a Patient Advocate. They “rubbed shoulders" from time to time, she said, but Freida had no idea her co-worker was sick, and she certainly didn't know she needed a kidney.
Bridget, who now works as a Unit Secretary in the ECC, had been on the national kidney transplant list for three years. Her need for a kidney became more urgent earlier this year when she had to begin dialysis. Until her surgery, she had been one of more than 4,000 Georgians awaiting a kidney donation.
Bridget's transplant coordinators encouraged her to help spread the word about her need. A friend made flyers for her, and Bridget shared them at work. It was one of those flyers that led Freida to be tested. The flyer included Bridget's blood type, and Freida saw that they shared the same type. After making sure her husband was okay with the idea of her donating a kidney, Freida approached Bridget, asking if she would mind if she was tested as a potential donor. A surprised Bridget agreed.
With encouragement from her husband and Bridget, Freida was tested on March 18, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. Voluntary surgeries were being delayed, and visitor rules were changing at hospitals, but that did not dissuade Freida. With a willing donor on record, both women completed a battery of health tests. Even if they were not a match, Freida had agreed to a paired exchange in which she would give a kidney to a matched patient she didn't know. Bridget, in turn, would receive a kidney from a match she did not know.
The paired exchange was not necessary. Freida was a perfect match. She delivered the news in person. Bridget said her first impulse was to scream with joy. Freida remembers her co-worker walking down the hallway, her hands raised in praise, and declaring, “Glory!"
With the match confirmed, both women continued with more tests to ensure they both were healthy to undergo surgery. The tests ranged from extensive lab and heart function tests to mammograms and colonoscopies for them both. Bridget's tests were scheduled for the week after Freida's, and even then Freida found an opportunity to support her co-worker turned friend.
“I knew how to pray for her," Freida said. “I knew her systems were much worse than mine."
That prayerful support is indicative of Freida's generous nature. Her focus is not on the loss of a kidney, but an opportunity to help a fellow human.
The transplant was immediately successful. Bridget's new kidney immediately began to work, her creatine levels quickly dropping from 8 to 2. Freida was able to go home the next day. Bridget was discharged July 27.
Bridget's response to Frieda's gift illustrates her humble gratitude. She says she is the blessed recipient of an incredible gift and grateful for the gain of a friend.
“It's just amazing," Bridget said. “Freida has children and grandchildren, and yet she was not selfish. You never know when someone in your own family may need an organ, but she thought of helping me."