Austin man gives life-saving gift following Defenders Investigation

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by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 29, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 14 at 6:36 PM

AUSTIN -- Nearly a year after a KVUE Defenders investigation featured an Austin woman waiting for a kidney transplant, someone she barely knew came forward with the life-saving gift.

Kim Hodge got the transplant two weeks ago. She was living without any kidneys since July. "Yes. As my sister says, 'kidney free.'"

It was an operation that almost came too late. To stay alive she spent four hours almost daily on dialysis, all while still working long hours as an assistant principal at Westwood High School in Austin.

“Since July I probably had the hardest months of my life. I felt like I was slowly dying to be honest with you,” Hodge said with tears in her eyes.

In 2012, KVUE interviewed Hodge for a story about lengthy kidney transplant waiting times in Austin. Central Texans wait longer for transplants than all other Texas cities.

After the story aired, Hodge said she felt more comfortable talking about her kidney disease at school. Lucky for her, someone she barely knew took notice.

"I overheard her talking about it, that she was waiting for a kidney. I can't remember the exact words she used," said Michael Boone, a 24-year-old first-year teacher.

Without Hodge knowing, Boone started looking into whether he could donate his kidney. His first call was to his family.

"My dad is a doctor and I called him, and I said, 'This is random, but one of my co-workers needs a kidney. How does this work?'" Boone explained.

Boone says he felt God gave him two signs. The first sign came while visiting a friend downtown. "I walked up on the second story and on the concrete, it was just really, clearly [written] - the name, Kim Hodge,” said Boone. 

The second sign happened while fishing in east Austin. He saw hundreds of people marching toward him, and he quickly realized it was a kidney walk.

"Yeah, that was weird. I was like, 'I need to keep thinking about this,'" Boone explained.

Months later, after careful thought and prayer, he decided to take a test to learn whether he was a match.

He then approached Hodge after school one day. "[Michael] had come into my office and basically said, 'I want to give you my kidney,'" Hodge said.

"She just got pretty quiet and just said 'thank you' and was emotional," Boone remembered.

Earlier this month the transplant happened three years after being put on a kidney waiting list. Both are still recovering but in good health.

Hodge can barely express her gratitude. “I can't imagine being his age and saying, 'I'm willing to give you my kidney,'" said Hodge.

“If I wouldn’t have had [Micheal] come forward, I don’t know if I’d be here,” Hodge said at her home.

Boone, who originally didn’t want to be interviewed for this story, said it was an easy decision. “It's that thing when you get someone a really good gift. You just get excited about it yourself, you know what I mean?" said Boone.

Boone said he agreed to do the interview in hopes of inspiring others to donate and to explain how God compelled him to act.

“It was a spiritual journey for me. I felt like God was laying it on my heart,” Boone said.

Austin’s Kidney Transplant Disparity

While Hodge received her kidney transplant within three years, others wait much longer.

Over the past year, the KVUE Defenders uncovered Austin patients wait longer for kidney transplants than any other place in the state. 

The median time patients wait for transplants is more than six years. That's more than three times longer than other similar-sized Texas cities.

Rita Littlefield is the former president of the Texas Renal Coalition, a kidney advocacy organization. KVUE's investigations compelled her to act. She is now seeking input from doctors, patients and lawmakers for potential solutions. "It's just not fair. We need a system that brings equality for everyone," said Littlefield.

This week Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office told KVUE it's now looking into this issue.

Interested in being an organ donor? Get more information and sign up here.

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