Thanks for giving

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 28, 2013

Judy Henley and Nick Nichols stand inside the hospital waiting room before the transplant.

Judy Henley and Nick Nichols stand inside the hospital waiting room before the transplant.

This holiday season, Walt “Nick” Nichols is thankful – thankful to be alive, and thankful to Judy Henley for donating the organ that has given him a new lease on life.

The pair was brought together 14 months ago in an improbable, and almost unbelievable, way. Today, they share a bond that will not only last a lifetime, but that literally extended Nichols’.

“About three years ago, my kidneys began to fail, and the doctor’s said it was something we would have to watch,” Nichols said. “All of the sudden, they started completely failing.”

Nichols said the next several years included dialysis treatments and, eventually, the search for a donor match for a kidney transplant he needed to survive his illness.

While family members had little luck in finding a viable match, Nichols said God provided an answer to his prayers from the last place he would have ever looked.

“While I was in Emory (hospital) in Atlanta, Judy worked for a termite service, and she had been spraying our house for bugs once a month for seven or eight years,” Nichols said. “She was spraying one day, and when she got through, she was talking to my wife, Barbara. She asked how I was doing and Barbara said, ‘not well,’ and told her I needed a kidney. (Judy) simply said, ‘Well, he can have one of mine.’”

Nichols said Henley’s matter-of-fact reaction to his need was the first step in what became an almost incomprehensible series of events – circumstances he said that are directly responsible for him being alive today.

“I was just somebody that needed a kidney, and here was a lady that was going to give it to me,” he said. “She went up (to Atlanta) and had a bunch of tests done. She called me on my birthday, of all days, and said, ‘I have been approved.’”
Nichols said, not only was Henley approved as a donor, but doctors described her as being a closer match than any of Nichols’ family members would have been.

“She turned out to be a perfect match for me,” he said.

What are the odds? Neither Nichols nor Henley believe statistics played a role.

“I think this was just a direct point of God’s finger,” Nichols said.

“I just feel that God placed me there at that appointed time for that appointed reason,” Henley said. “To give someone else life, means more to me than anything. It’s an awesome thing. I’m very honored that I had a chance to give him life.”
“It’s hard for to express it,” Nichols said. “I sit around all the time, even now, thinking, ‘What did I ever do to deserve something like that?’”

Nichols said he is spending this Thanksgiving holiday in South Carolina with his wife, son, daughter and three grandchildren, something he says he can only do because of Henley’s generosity.

“The last few years, I haven’t been able to travel,” he said. “Last year, obviously, I had just had the transplant, and the few years before that I was on dialysis. This is a real treat.”

While he enjoys the holidays with his family, Nichols said Henley will be in his thoughts.

“I don’t know what would ever possess a lady like that to be so giving,” he said. “What can I say about her for doing something like that? It’s an incredible act of goodness and kindness. It’s hard to sit there and think that I am carrying a part of another person’s body that they gave me so I could live.”

Henley said, not only would she do it all over again given the chance, but she would also encourage others to donate blood, time and even organs, if the circumstances were right.

“I am very thankful that God saw us through and that (Nichols) is able to go and enjoy is life,” Henley said. “I wish I had more kidneys I could give, because there are so many more people to help. I would encourage people to do things like that, because you don’t have to be dead to be an organ donor.

“I can’t even tell that I donated a kidney. I live a healthy lifestyle, so I haven’t had any reason to have any problems.”

Suffice it to say, both Nichols and Henley have plenty to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving holiday.