Stranger's gift changes Georgia teen's life
ATLANTA - At Emory Hospital, 42-year old Kelley Bundick is waiting for a surgery she doesn't need.
"I'm feeling a little bit anxious, but I'm excited," Bundick says.
And across the street at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, 16-year old Mychel Armour's family is gathered for a surgery that, to her, means everything.
"And this here, for her, is like the biggest payoff, gift, reward, for all she's had to endure," says her mother Jaqueline Armour.
Until today, Mychel, a Greene County High School junior, diagnosed with Lupus at 9, was living her life on hold.
She wanted more than anything to join her school's dance team, and swim, and go for sleepovers with her girlfriends.
But Mychel couldn't because she was in advanced kidney failure, and needed to sleep each night hooked up to a dialysis machine that removed the toxins from her blood.
Back in June, Kelley, an Acworth medical sales rep and single mother of a 5-year old son and a 12-year old daughter, saw a
photo of Mychel on the Facebook page "Our Daddy Needs A Kidney - Team Callaway" for people searching for a living kidney donor.
It was created by the wife of Greensboro police detective, Raleigh Callaway back in 2014.
At the time, he needed a kidney, and a stranger in Texas volunteered to be Callaway's donor.
But, this was the first time a child had been featured on the Facebook page.
"So, of course, as a mom, that pulled on my heartstrings," says Bundick. "And, I realized we were the same blood type."
So, Bundick called Emory University and volunteered to be tested to see if she might be match for Mychel.
"And she didn't even know our story," says Mychel's mother, a 911 dispatcher for Greensboro. "She didn't know the details. Nothing.
And we didn't ask her. She just volunteers."
Now, after months of testing, it's surgery day.
"She is definitely ready. She seems very calm this morning. She's made her decision," says Emory's Dr. Nicole Turgeon.
Yet, why, with two kids of her own, would Bundick do this?
To help Mychel, she says.
"Give her her life back," Bundick says. "I'm getting teary-eyed. I think more so that just saving her life, it's the change to live her life. She's 16-years old. She's got a whole future in front of her. And I wanted her to be able to live it to the fullest."
Kelley's part of the transplant process will take just a couple of hours.
Dr. Turgeon, who is performing her operation, specializes is living donor surgeries, people who give a kidney to a loved one, colleague, or sometimes a stranger, because they can.
"I really cherish the opportunity to work with these donors because they put themselves in harm's way," Dr. Turgeon says. "So, I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to them as well as to the potential recipient."
Kelley's surgery is seamless, and as her kidney is lifted, out Dr. Turgeon examines it, flushing it with saline.
"The kidney looks fantastic. It's flushing really nicely," she says. "It's a beautiful kidney."
Minutes later, the kidney, stored on ice inside a cooler, is rolled through an underground tunnel to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where Mychel is already in the OR.
At 11:01 am, just 1 hour and 17 minutes after the kidney was taken out of Kelley, Children's surgeon Paul Tso places it inside Mychel.
"Right now it looks like a perfect fit for her," Dr. Tso says.
Three days later, Mychel celebrated her 17 th birthday at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, with the best birthday present of all.
"Other people will get money, or material things," Mychel says. "I got a kidney."
No more dialysis, no more life on hold.
Mychel says her donor Kelley is "amazing," and they'll keep in touch because she's "family now."
For Mychel Armour, Kelley's gift means a fresh start.
"A better life," Mychel says. "I get to live life like I want it now."
"I want to swim," Mychel says. "And dance."
Just thinking about it makes her smile.