Having been telephoned with the news a potential donor had been found three times before, the 41-year-old Midlander had turned the task of getting ready and on the road into an art. He only had so many hours to be admitted into Baylor University Medical Center after receiving word organs were available, and the opportunity wasn’t one he wanted to waste.
“That morning, they called at 4:25 a.m.,” he said, speaking from his Midland home after returning from Dallas a week ago today. “We were packed and ready to go and stuff. Each time within an hour of the phone call, we were gone.”
Henderson was 24 when he learned he had diabetes.
Having been adopted, he didn’t have any family medical history recorded and didn’t know to look out for any specific conditions.
He was driving a crude oil truck at the time and kept having to interrupt his shifts to stop and use the restroom, so he visited a doctor. After being diagnosed, he worked to manage the disease, but slowly his pancreas failed.
In 2010, the disease had fully affected his kidneys and they failed, as well. Physicians put him on dialysis to keep him functioning, and Henderson spent four hours every other day hooked up to machines that rid his blood of harmful wastes.
“I was feeling pretty bad,” he said. “Awful, awful.”
Because his health had forced him to stop working before the treatments began, Henderson said he tried to look at the regular dialysis simply as a chance to get out of the house.
By December, he had completed the necessary evaluations to qualify for a transplant. He was placed on lists at Baylor University Medical Center and Scott and White Hospital. Then, he waited.
Henderson and his mother arrived in Dallas almost exactly five hours after they had been alerted he might be eligible for the transplants. The first time they had been called with the news organs were available, Henderson was second on the list and traveled in case the first recipient wasn’t a match. The second and third times, the pancreas was damaged and unusable.
This time, everything fell into place.
After arriving at the hospital, Henderson spent about five hours being processed and then waited for tests to confirm the organs would function. Then he was sent into surgery.
When he emerged, he was placed in intensive care where he remained for about a day and a half. By day three, Henderson was up and walking.
“There just wasn’t ever any pain,” he said.
Six days after the transplants, he was released.
He and his mother moved down the street into the Twice Blessed House where recipients like him are allowed to stay until they are able to return to their hometowns after going through additional tests and monitoring.
Last week, he was cleared to move back to the Tall City.
“Oh, it’s just it’s 100 percent different,” said Henderson. “I have energy again; I can get up and go do things.”
Back in Midland and still getting used to the medicines he’s on after the transplant, Henderson said he’s trying to figure out how to return part of the blessing he’s received.
He’s beyond grateful for the kidney and pancreas transplants that have given him life again. But, Henderson said he never wanted a family to lose their 12-year-old son so that he could be saved.
“It just struck me one day in the hospital that I need to find some way to give back,” he said.
The Southwest Transplant Alliance wasn’t able to provide him too many details, Henderson said, but he does know the organs came from a child who succumbed to a brain injury. He has been told the Transplant Alliance can pass on a letter to the family, so he’s trying to find just the right words to express his gratitude, as well as his sorrow that they lost someone so young.
“That’s what I’ve been thinking about,” he said.
Eventually, he said he would like to go into social work and help people like himself as they go through the transplant process. He also has already become an advocate for organ donation.
There were more than 10,500 Texans on the waiting list for an organ in April, according to the Southwest Transplant Alliance, and organ donations from just one person can save more than 50 lives.
“There’s so many ways organ donors can help. I was even unaware of a bunch — anything from your eyes to your heart, your lungs and your intestines,” Henderson said. “It’s just amazing.”