Before Donation, Man Writes 'Goodbye' Letters to His Kidney: 'Good Job These Last 25 years'


Rebecca Guillera, senior transplant coordinator at the hospital, answered the phone that day. It wasn't the first time she'd gotten a call from someone wanting to donate an organ. But she said Parrie was far more informed and determined than most. She talked with him repeatedly about the risks of the surgery and that he had the right to change his mind at any time.

"The most important thing is to know the facts and make sure the donor really understands what they're getting into," she said.

Not just anyone can go to a hospital and give away a vital organ. Guillera guided Parrie through the required process, checking into his medical history and scheduling two psychiatric evaluations for him. Still living in New Haven, Parrie did a battery of medical tests at a hospital there. For a guy who'd never spent much time in the hospital before, it was difficult at times.

"I had tried to donate blood many times before and failed, either because I fainted or they couldn't find a vessel," Parrie said. "I did pass out a few times during the blood tests."

And then there was the time when doctors wanted him to collect his urine for 24 hours.

"I basically had to walk around Yale law school with a giant jug of pee," he said.

But he said he never stopped believing it was the right thing to do.

"You're headed for a new place, Dick Posner, and you're going to make that place better just by being there," Parrie wrote to his kidney on February 13.

Parrie passed the medical tests, and a physician committee at Ochsner began to review a list of potential recipients for his kidney. On August 9, Guillera called Cheaney to let her know that she had been selected. She got the call just as she had hooked herself up to the dialysis machine.

"I just cried. I couldn't believe it was happening. I'm getting a kidney from an anonymous donor? Really? It was mind-blowing," she said.

A week later, the surgery was scheduled.

In his last letter on August 17, Parrie wrote, "Dear Dick Posner, tomorrow, 9 AM. Just another day at the office. You've come a long way my friend. Don't worry. I'll be in touch when you're on the other side. Much love, Eric."

The surgery was successful, and after a few weeks, both Parrie and Cheaney recovered. Parrie went back to law school, where he said he can still ride his bike, play basketball and drink alcohol, just as he did when he had two kidneys. Cheaney said she's now healthy enough to keep up with her son and take care of her family.

Typically, hospitals take great pains to ensure that anonymous donations stay anonymous. But both Parrie and Cheaney decided they wanted to meet and Guillera put them in touch. On January 2, Parrie, back in New Orleans on break, rode his bike to Ochsner, just as he had on the day of the August surgery. Cheaney, her husband Matt and son Devon made the three-hour drive from Sulphur to the New Orleans hospital.

"I was thinking, 'Man what am I going to say to this guy?' I just wanted to let him know how much he's done for us, me and my family," she said. "He's just a magnificent person."

Parrie said the choice to be a living donor may not be right for everyone, but he hopes more people will consider it as a safe and realistic option. He wants others to know it doesn't take a saint to donate.

"It takes diligence and courage, but doesn't take a superhero," he said. "You can be someone who believes in loving your neighbor as yourself and this is a way to make it happen."

What did the real Dick Posner have to say about all this? Parrie wrote an email to him, telling him about his kidney donation and the letters he had written.

"I got an email back from his assistant. She said, 'Judge Posner was pleased to hear that since up to now the only thing named after him was a house cat,'" Parrie said.

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