Growing up, I had always had a passion for sports and being active at a young age. I started playing soccer when I was just 3 years old. By 10 years old, I started playing on a travel competitive soccer team. Travel soccer was such an amazing time to bond with teammates from all over the state of Tennessee and to play in a competitive setting.
Throughout travel soccer, my dad would always be the one to take me to practice whenever we had it. He was also the one, along with my mom, to take me to every tournament we had. No matter what, he was at every game and was supporting me through all the ups and downs that came with sports. In my senior year of high school, my soccer team made it all the way to Nationals and ended up winning to become National Champions in 2017.
I was able to have the opportunity to play Division I college soccer. I began my college career at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. This was also the alma mater for both of my parents. After a year and a half, I would then transfer to Austin Peay State University to finish out my college soccer career and graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry cum laude in May 2021. Being a student-athlete helped me develop many life skills and experience opportunities that I would not have been able to otherwise. Also, in the same month that I graduated from college, I was able to get married to my middle school sweetheart, Jeremiah.
Going into college, I knew that my dad’s health was not the best. I did not truly understand the extent of the details of his health but that his kidneys had been failing for a long time. Protein had been found in his urine since he was young, so this developed into chronic kidney disease that would then turn into end-stage renal failure. It was not until my junior year of college, in January 2020, that my dad began dialysis. Once he started dialysis, I saw that this was only a means of keeping him alive. It was hard to watch a family member go through dialysis, as it made him very sick each day. My great-grandmother passed from renal failure, so this was not the first time that kidney disease took a toll on my family.
Seeing someone you love go through such a difficult time, you would do anything to help them. For all the sacrifices that my dad had made for me, I did not hesitate to think about making one for him. I knew that I wanted to have my dad around for many more years and therefore I took the next step to get tested to see if I could be a potential match for him. Once I found out I was a match, I went through the donor process and took each step necessary to see if I was able to donate my kidney. In the summer of 2021, we finally got the amazing news that we were approved for surgery! We then set our date to August 19th, 2021 at Vanderbilt Hospital. It was such a blessing and relief to finally know that a change was coming. I had never had any sort of major surgery in my life so this would be my first time going through this process. Most 22-year-olds aren’t faced with this sort of situation, but it helped me step out of my comfort zone and helped me realize just how strong of a person I am.
Once the surgery was complete, my dad and I recovered in the hospital for 3 days before going home. Throughout the recovery process, I had to learn to take each day little by little. Even though I had felt pretty good after two weeks from surgery, I probably pushed myself a little more than I should have. This in turn made me sick for a week and had to return to the hospital just so they were able to monitor me overnight for a day. I then learned my lesson of sitting back and taking it slow. After about 6 weeks post-op, I felt like I could go on walks and slowly start rebuilding back up my strength. Each day I felt stronger and stronger and back to my normal self. It was very hard going from playing soccer my entire life and lifting weights, to being restricted in what I could do for a certain amount of time post-surgery.
Today, my dad and I are 9 months post-surgery, and both doing great. My dad named his new kidney “Rose” after my middle name. So “Rose” has been doing a great job in her new place. My dad is able to now go to work, travel, and live a normal life compared to what it was like before. I am also able to live a completely normal life as well and back to working out and finding my new passion since finishing my soccer career. I will be starting PA school at Lincoln Memorial University in May 2022 and I am super excited to begin my journey into the medical field.
What a touching story! What an amazing family!!! So thankful that God made a way for Joe to have a full life again! Also thankful for Mave’s heart of gold!!!