Returning the Gift of Life – A Mother and Daughter Story

“I gave her life and she extended mine.”

In 2002,  Danette Ragin was diagnosed with end stage renal disease. Despite years of keeping an eye on her kidney health, stress and hypertension had worsened her condition to the point of needing a kidney transplant.

Placement on the transplant list became a waiting game for Danette and her family. Her daughters worried what would happen to their Mom if a transplant wasn’t found in time. Danette received two calls about potential matches, but the third time was the charm: in June, 2008, Danette received a phone call from her transplant center, University of Maryland Medical Center, about a donor match while she and her daughter, Danisha “Angel” Whitaker, were dress shopping. When Danette told her daughter the good news, Danisha proceeded to let the crowd know. “She said, ‘I’m sorry everyone, but ma’am, can you hurry up because my mom has a kidney waiting for her at the hospital!’” Danette said.

Danette and Angel at a family reunion in 1996. Source: Danette Ragin

Danette’s generous donor was a 55-year-old woman who had died of heart complications. Grateful for her donor’s gift, Danette called her kidney “Jane Doe Right.”

Eight years later, Danette started to have kidney complications once again and unfortunately had to be placed back on the transplant waiting list. She told her family the news and both her daughters and her Godson all got tested as potential living donors. Miraculously, all three were a match, but it was Danisha who insisted she would be the one to donate.

“This was a very intimate experience for me,” said Danisha. “The fact that I gave a kidney to my mom, I felt like this was the best gift I could give her.” The successful transplant took place right before Christmas in 2016 – both women are doing well and using their experience to raise awareness for donation.

Danette feels like her kidney transplants have given her an extended warranty on life; more time with her husband, more time with her family, more time to love. “Not only did I receive a young healthy kidney, it’s from someone who I love very much. I gave her life and now she has extended mine.”

Angel and Danette at the 2018 Team Maryland Bingo. Source: Danette Ragin

Interested in becoming a living donor?

  • Educate yourself. As a Donate Life Ambassador, Danette and Angel talk to the community about organ, eye, and tissue donation and disprove myths about donation and transplantation.
    • “Don’t let someone talk you out of giving the gift of life to someone else because of the myths about donation,” Danisha said.
  • Talk to the people who will be impacted by your decision. Angel had discussions with her husband, family, and friends about her decision to donate. While some were apprehensive, her husband was fully supportive.
    • “When you have someone who’s backing you and your decision, it makes everything easier,” Danisha said.

Learn more about living donation at www.thellf.org/livingdonation.

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