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The Pitts Family: a Daughter Donates Her Kidney to Save Her Mother

05/31/2017

By AJ Simmons

WRNMMC Command Communications

It was October of 2016 when Vicki Pitts, 69, was diagnosed with renal failure from stage five Kidney Disease. Shocked and terrified by the news, she was immediately sent to the Department of Nephrology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). She said that it was here she learned she had the choice between pursuing a transplant or going on dialysis.
“I knew I wanted a transplant,” explained Vicki. “And that’s when the daughter comes into the story.”
Accompanied by her family, Vicki returned to WRNMMC to discuss the details and process involved with joining the transplant list. Joining this, she was assessed for her placement on the list.
Vicki’s daughter, Jennifer, was among the family that came with her to WRNMMC that day. Observing the discussion of Vicki’s placement on the transplant list, Jennifer came to a conclusion. She knew she wanted to volunteer one of her own kidneys to save her mother’s life.
“My mom said she didn’t know if I would want to do it,” said Jennifer. Her reply to her mother was simple and heartfelt, as she said, “You gave me life, so of course I want to give it back to you.”
At the beginning of testing Jennifer was warned by her Living Donor Coordinator that children are often not a donor match for their parents, as the antibodies transferred during birth often cause complications in the transplant process.
“They kept saying ‘Don’t get too excited. It probably won’t be you. It’ll probably be another family member,’” said Jennifer. “But I just knew it was going to be me.”
Fortunately for the Pitts family, their circumstance was a rare exception to the norm. One week after being tested, Jennifer was contacted with the news that she was a match for her mother.
Vicki described the moment she received the call from Jennifer telling her through joyful tears that they were a match. “For her to be my match is incredible,” said Vicki. “It is a miracle.”
After three months of preparation, which included several preparatory surgeries to increase the likelihood of a successful transplant, the day of the transplant arrived. Vicki and Jennifer confirmed that both surgeries were successful and completed with no significant complications.
Following surgery, they stayed in Walter Reed’s Fisher House for one month, where they were able to remain close to one another as they healed. Both Vicki and Jennifer lauded the attentive care they received from the Walter Reed Bethesda staff.
“Everyone at Walter Reed—from the floor to the transplant team—just really answers any questions you have and makes sure you’re really comfortable with everything,” explained Jennifer as she recalled the days surrounding the procedure.
“You can call them any time, day or night,” said Vicki in agreement with her daughter. “That really gives you the feeling that you’re at the right hospital.” 
Today, five weeks after the successful kidney transplant, Vicki and Jennifer say they are in good health and are completing their recovery.
Vicki was quick to acknowledge and praise the generosity of the military families that they have met throughout the years, many of whom sent gifts, cards and even chicken soup to help the Pitts family through the process. “The families that we met 30 years ago are still here touching our lives now,” she said.
Both Vicki and Jennifer explained that the kindness of the military families in their lives during the transplant has inspired them to extend that selflessness to others in need, particularly those awaiting transplants on the donor list.
Vicki said that this is the best mother’s day gift she could have ever been given, calling it “the gift that keeps on giving.”
One thing is undoubtedly clear: the Pitts family had a very special reason to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.