The Ultimate Gift
(pictured above: Alan Andrews (center) and Carrie Vickery (second from right) with (from left): Andrews’ son Evan and wife Lynne Fuller-Andrews and Vickery’s husband Phillip Skipper Jr. (right).)
Lawyer-to-lawyer kidney donation story will warm your heart
At first glance, Carrie Vickery and Alan Andrews have little in common.
She’s petite, Caucasian and young – 27 to be exact – while he is tall, African American and more than 20 years her senior. Nevertheless, the two share the most intimate of bonds: Vickery’s kidneys.
“Carrie and I apparently have all of this commonality, and we’re just coincidentally two people who work on the same street,” said Andrews, a deputy attorney for the City of Winston-Salem. “I would never have thought that. It’s actually proved in my mind that we are all the same beneath our skin.”
The two attorneys’ unlikely story begins in January, when they briefly crossed paths at a Winston-Salem Bar Association meeting honoring the late Judge Roland Hayes. As luck or fate would have it, less than a year later, Vickery, an attorney at Holton Law Firm, would be offering up her kidney to Andrews over lunch.
“At first, I was like, ‘She must not have really understood what I said because she just said something crazy to me,’” related Andrews, a native of Robersonville. “…But from the moment she said, ‘I’m willing to donate an organ to you if it works out,’ she’s never wavered. She’s been, as people say down my way ‘true blue,’ and it’s been the most refreshing thing.”
Both Vickery, a member of Reynolda Presbyterian, and Andrews, a member of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, believe divine intervention brought them together at an opportune time.
“The timing was so perfect that you know that it’s nothing else but a spiritual intervention of some sort that made this happen,” Vickery said.
In the spring, Andrews had invited Vickery to join a committee for the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem. When he called to invite her to lunch, Vickery said she assumed he wanted to discuss the most recent meeting, which she had missed to be with her grandmother, Joan Daniel, who was in the last days of her battle with kidney failure. Instead, Andrews revealed that he was ill and had begun a nightly regimen of dialysis.
“He starts telling me about how he’s been sick and has been on the transplant list and on dialysis,” related Vickery, an Elon University School of Law alumna. “I said, ‘Oh you need a kidney?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, do you want mine?’”
Vickery’s offer was made with one condition. She had recently been tested to see if she was a viable kidney donor for her new husband, Phillip “Skip” Skipper Jr., who was born with only one kidney. Vickery wanted to be able to help her husband if his remaining kidney ever failed and had told Andrews she would give him a kidney only if she and her husband were not a match, which turned out to be the case.
“All this stuff just came together so perfectly, so that when I found out my husband and I weren’t a match, I was like, ‘I know this is going to happen,’ because it all fell into place so perfectly,” said Vickery.
Though he had suffered from kidney disease caused by hypertension for more than a decade, and had shed 90 pounds since being added to the transplant list in 2010 in hopes of improving his outcome as a transplant recipient, Andrews, a married father of an 11-year-old son, was just beginning to reveal his condition to the public at the time of his lunch with Vickery.
“Being in a position like this, it’s very lonely,” he said. “Suddenly, your life is filled with things that are unassured. You don’t know how long you’re going to be on dialysis, you don’t know how long you’re going to live, and you’ve got to approach that soberly with your family and with yourself. It’s a scary, lonely feeling.”
Andrews likens the incredible fortune of finding a living donor to hitting the lottery.
“She is the most giving person I have ever met in my life. It means everything to me. It’s restored my belief in the immense capacity of humans for giving selflessly,” he declared. “…I’ve got somebody who’s under no obligation, who, for no other reason than just godly kindness, is willing to do this for me, my little sister for life. We’ve got a bond now, for sure, forever.”
Vickery said she too was feeling blessed as the two prepared for surgery on Monday.
“It’s been exciting for me,” she declared. “I feel extremely lucky that I’m healthy enough to be able to donate an organ.”
Andrews affectionately refers to his and Vickery’s unusual kinship as “the world’s great story.” It is a story he plans to tell over and over again, in hopes that others will find the courage to step up as Vickery has and give of themselves in order to save another.
“Going forward, as much as I can, I want to inform people, educate people,” he said, speaking of the importance of organ donation. “It’ll be my testimony, my gift back to humanity for this gift that has been given to me.”
From the moment she made the commitment to Andrews, Vickery says she has never looked back.
“I’m still excited. I’ve been excited,” she declared. “Every single time I got a call that says you passed (the next phase of testing to become a donor), I felt like I’d won something.”
For more information about organ donation or to register as an organ donor, visit www.donatelifenc.org or call Carolina Donor Services at 336-774-4450.