Allison Batson has given a whole new meaning to "the gift of life." Going above and beyond her duties as a nurse helping to save patients' lives, she donated her kidney to one last week.
The recipient is Clay Taber, whose kidneys failed nearly two years ago. The Auburn University graduate was being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in the summer of 2010 when he met the 48-year-old transplantation nurse.
Taber, 23, had just graduated from Auburn in Alabama and moved back with his family in Columbus, Ga., when he became ill.
"I kept having night sweats and then that developed into fevers and chills," Taber said. "Then I felt a lot of fatigue and completely lost my appetite."
Taber had already lost more than 20 pounds, his mother frantically doing everything possible to get his appetite back to normal. They decided to go to a physician for help. The doctors immediately ran blood tests.
Taber's mother, Sandra Taber, received a call from their doctor Aug. 27, 2010, saying her son needed to be rushed to the hospital immediately because he'd gone into complete kidney failure.
Taber was admitted into Doctors Hospital in Columbus, where after five days of testing he was diagnosed with Goodpasture's Syndrome, a rare disease that affects about 1 in a million people per year.
Researchers don't have a full understanding of how the disease surfaces, but it is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system creates an antibody that attacks the lungs and kidneys.
Taber began dialysis for his kidneys as well as plasmapheresis, a treatment for Goodpasture's Syndrome where a patient's blood is filtered in order to separate the red and white blood cells from the plasma and then returned to the body.
"I was just trying to start my life, start my career, even wanted to propose to my girlfriend soon and then I had to deal with all this. It was frustrating," Taber said.
He was transferred to Emory University Hospital, which specializes in kidney and autoimmune diseases.
That's when nurse Batson found out that a young man with renal failure was being transferred to her hospital.
"It hit close to home because I have kids between the ages of 16 and 27. I thought it wasn't fair," Batson said, adding that her father died of liver disease in 1995.
Dubbed the "cheerleader of floor 7G at Emory University Hospital," Batson went into Taber's room and said, "I heard there's a good looking young man in here."
Batson and Taber's family grew close in the next month. She offered sympathy and a shoulder to cry on for Taber's mother, and went on frequent coffee breaks with her.
She even became a friend to Taber and exchanged ideas on how to propose to his future fiancee.
"The funny thing is she was rarely the nurse assigned to me," Taber said. "She would come in on her own every day after her shift."
Taber was discharged but continued his dialysis treatment in Columbus. He and his family returned to Emory once a month for checkups and would always make it a point to see Batson.
It wasn't until a year later, in August of 2011, that doctors found Taber fit for a transplant. He would then try to join the 90,000 people living in the United States waiting for a kidney.
Batson said it takes more than a year to get on a deceased donor list because of the Goodpasture's Syndrome Taber had been diagnosed with.