Local man gets kidney donation from an unlikely donor
Finding a savior in the adjacent aisle at Sweetbay
By: Linda HurtadoTAMPA - While TGH celebrates the success of their heart transplant program, two local residents are recovering from a different kind of transplant surgery at the same hospital. After waiting for years to receive a kidney, Sweetbay worker Avery Harris got his new organ from an unexpected donor: his co-worker.
Walk into the Sweetbay Grocery Store on Dale Mabry near Raymond James and you may see Harris' warm inviting smile or hear his soft voice, but you won't see the hidden strength it’s taken him to stay alive.
When Harris isn't working, he's usually here at the Fresenius Medical Care Center hooked up to a dialysis machine.
"It acts like an artificial kidney. It just filters my blood, taking out all the poison and any extra fluid I have that a normal kidney would do on a daily basis,” Harris said.
Harris says if he didn't come here four hours a day, three days a week, "I would get really sick till the point where it would kill me."
Harris has Lupus, an autoimmune disease that led to both kidneys shutting down, changing his life at the early age of 15.
“I've been waiting for a kidney for about three and a half years," he said.
He'd always dreamed of a transplant, but knew he could wait forever for a cadaver donor. Then he learned about the living donor program and cautiously, optimistically brought it up to family and friends. A handful of people got tested, and Katrina Humphreys was his perfect match.
“He could be my baby brother or he could be like a cousin," Humphreys said.
But Humphreys is not a family member, nor was she really a close friend. Harris found his savior stocking shelves on an adjacent aisle at his Sweetbay store.
When Humphreys was asked how people reacted when they hear she’s donating one of her kidneys to a co- worker, she says, "They're like wow! That's very generous of you. You know I don't look at it as attention for me but when I got the facts the risk was actually very low to me and I thought if I could improve somebody's life, that's just who I am."
Now as both wait to go into the operation room at TGH, there are no regrets - only anticipation.
Humphreys says, "I always tell him that there's gonna be a part of me living in you forever. You're gonna be great. You're gonna be solid. I've been healthy all my life; you're going to be good to go."