A Friend Saves a Friend through Organ Donation

“Thank you for being a friend.”

Beginning with these title words, singer/songwriter Andrew Gold describes a deep and long-lasting friendship in his 1978 hit song. Anyone who has ever experienced a close bond with another person can certainly appreciate his sentiments.

Later in the song, Gold added an additional lyric.

“Well, you would see the biggest gift would be from me…”

This line is particularly poignant for Hendersonville resident Duane Moore and his close friend Crystal Deshotels from Nashville. They share a bond few people are ever able to experience due to the selfless act of organ donation.

Duane met Crystal more than 10 years ago at a child care center in Madison. They got to know each other through their daily routine of dropping off and picking up their daughters. Over time, they began to know each other better, and their friendship began to bloom.

“We passed each other in the halls each day, and we began to talk,” Crystal says. “One day, Duane said that he would like for me to meet his wife, Elaine, and for us to all go out to dinner. We have been friends ever since.”

Through the years, they chatted about a lot of different things, including personal and family activities. Eventually, their talks turned to medical matters, and Duane learned that Crystal suffers from a genetic disorder called polycystic kidney disease.

“I was diagnosed with the disorder when I was 18 years old and pregnant with my daughter,” Crystal says. “It is a systemwide disease that can ultimately lead to the need for a kidney transplant. Fortunately for me, although my disease was aggressive, it did not progress rapidly, at first.”

In late 2016, Duane began to notice that Crystal seemed distracted when they would meet, and she didn’t seem as though she were feeling well.

“One morning, Crystal came out with a drawn face and said that she was going to need a transplant soon,” Duane says.

“By October 2016, the disease had begun to progress rapidly,” Crystal sats. “My nephrologist told me that it was time to start looking for a transplant donor. He scheduled me to begin the transplant evaluation and preparation process in January 2017.”

Once Crystal knew her transplant journey was about to begin, she immediately spread the word to friends and family that she was going to need a kidney donor. Many of her relatives had themselves tested for donor compatibility, but none of them were a match.

 However, as soon as Duane heard the news, he immediately decided to get tested to see if he could be a compatible donor.

“I decided to get tested as soon as I found out about her need,” Duane says. “I contacted Tristar Centennial Medical Center to get the process started. I filled out the required forms, faxed them to the hospital and 30 minutes later, I received a call from the transplant coordinator asking me to come in for a formal evaluation.”

Subsequently, Duane went through the all-day donor review process on March 15. The process went smoothly, and it included blood, urine and tissue analysis and interviews with nutritionists, dieticians, the transplant surgeon and a social worker.

“The social worker was there to make sure that Duane thoroughly understood what he was getting into,” Elaine says. “She also wanted to ensure that he had a strong support network at home to help him as he went through the donor process.”

As fortune would have it, Duane did not have to wait long for an answer.

“One week later, I found out that I was a match for Crystal,” Duane says. “It was a whirlwind process.”

“I knew that he would be a match even before he went to be tested,” Elaine says. “In my mind, his kidney was already hers; it was just the formality of whose body it was in. Call it faith, God’s will, whatever. I just knew.”

Before the transplant process could begin, there were a couple of hurdles that needed to be surmounted. First, Crystal would have to be placed on the active transplant recipient list. To be eligible, Crystal would have to undergo a major surgical procedure, known as a nephrectomy, which results in the removal of her two diseased kidneys.

“Each day, my native kidneys were getting increasingly swollen and distended, which caused me a lot of discomfort,” Crystal says. “Although I was nervous about the surgery and the subsequent dialysis treatments, I was looking forward to getting away from the painful problems my enlarged kidneys were causing.”

After several weeks of preparation, Crystal had her nephrectomy procedure in May. While the surgery went well, she still had to heal for several months before the transplant process could continue.

The second hurdle was handling with the psychological challenges that face donors, recipients and their families. While the choices to donate and receive were already made, the ensuing time between the initial decisions and the transplant procedure allowed doubt to surface.

“The big thing for me was dealing with the reality of giving up a kidney,” Duane says. “I did go back and forth on the pros and cons a bit. However, at the end of the day, I had no hesitation. Crystal’s life was at stake, and I was the one who could help her.”

“Duane and I had a lot of conversations about whether or not he should do it,” Crystal says. “We both knew that the decision was not just about my needs or Duane’s willingness to donate. He also had to consider the impact on Elaine and Renee. I was constantly thinking about the impact on all of them.”

“I did have to process it,” Elaine says. “I had to work through a lot of personal demons and fears. However, at the end of the day, I knew that the surgery would save Crystal’s life.”

“Elaine and I had dinner on several occasions to talk through the situation,” Crystal says. “Finally, she told me that she had no hesitation about Duane donating to me because she knew me and the type of person that I was. After she said that, I felt a lot better.”

Ultimately, Duane, Crystal and their families worked through their concerns and were ready to proceed with the transplant. After consulting with the surgical teams, the transplant procedure was scheduled for Sept. 17 at Centennial.

Duane went into surgery first in order to have his left kidney removed. Crystal entered the operating room shortly thereafter to receive her new kidney. Both surgeries went well, and both patients had relatively smooth recoveries.

Nineteen months later, both Crystal and Duane are doing well, and their lives have returned to normal. However, they both continue to strongly advocate for organ donation.

“We were put on this earth to help people,” Duane says. “There is a reason that Crystal and I crossed paths. There is a reason that God gave us two kidneys. If you see somebody hurting, then you should do what you can to help.

“Organ donation is the ultimate gift,” Crystal says.

For more information, contact Centennial Medical Center at TristarCentennial.com.