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Former Shands transplant patient finally gets miracle

10:41 PM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A First Coast woman and her family, waiting on a lifesaving gift for years, finally have their miracle.

Over a year ago, hundreds of patients waiting for transplants at Shands Jacksonville got the news the program was closing, and they were off the list.

"With this gift we've received now, a mother, my wife, my best friend now has a chance to live another 10, 15, 20 years," Hugh Patterson said.

The odds were stacked against Patterson's wife, Tammy.

"Just last week we wondered if she would survive another year or two on dialysis," Hugh said.

Waiting for a new kidney since 2005, Tammy was one of more than 100 "status 1" kidney transplant candidates at Shands Jacksonville forced off the list when the kidney transplant center suddenly closed in January of 2011.

Her husband, Hugh, spoke to First Coast News in January 2011, saying: "We could have had a transplant tonight at Shands if a donor became available."

Days later, a donor did become available. Tammy was a match but was no longer on the waiting list.

Several weeks later, Tammy was accepted into Mayo Clinic's transplant program and put back on the waiting list. But because of the program's size, her wait time went from any day now to 3 to 4 years.

And Tammy was getting weaker and down to her last vein for dialysis.

"I think it finally dawned on me how mortal I am," Tammy said.

The last few weeks at dialysis, there were minor problems.

"I knew that easily those minor problems could turn into something major," Tammy said. "I felt like time was slipping away."

Tammy first found out her life would be filled with dialysis and new kidneys in 1989, on her first anniversary, after getting sick at dinner. They believe the disease came from a blood transfusion Tammy Patterson received as a baby. She was told she had 8 to 10 years to live and would never have children.

23 years later, her two teenage sons know she's capable of beating the odds.

Just after midnight Monday morning, they got the call.

12 hours later, she went into surgery.

"As soon as I woke up I felt good," Tammy said. "There's just a difference that I can't explain."

"It's a complete miracle," Hugh said.

Her kidney is "sleepy", so doctors said it may take a few rounds of dialysis for it to function fully.

But Patterson and her doctors are optimistic.

"I know it's going to wake up and I know it's going to give to me what I've been missing," Tammy said.

Tammy will never meet her kidney donor. The donor's death gave her the gift of a full life.

"The gift that this donor family has given us, that is an incredible gift," Tammy said. "If a person gets a second chance at life, how can you ever top that?"

"Words can't describe how good it is to know that someone cared enough to become a donor," Hugh said. "That now she has another shot to live a long time."

More than 3,700 patients are awaiting organ transplants in Florida.

It only takes a few clicks to become an organ donor.

Click here to visit Donate Life Florida. You can also call the organization at 1-887-35-SHARE.

You can also register to be an organ donor when getting or renewing your driver's license.

First Coast News

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