Don’t call her a hero or a champion

Call Colette Greggs a hero or a champion and she would snap back “no I’m not!” She also doesn’t want to be called a healer, a life giver, or a living donor.

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But the truth is Colette Greggs is all of that.

The moment she entered Oschner’s Medical Center after having donated her kidney to Muriel Haysbert, who has suffered with lupus for a decade, Greggs became one of 6,000 living donors who will give an organ this year.

She also became Haysbert’s hero even though Greggs refuses to accept the label. “I am so blessed. God used her as a vessel to return my life (and) to give me a quality of life that I wanted.”  

 For Greggs, donating her kidney wasn’t about heroics or friendship. In fact, she and Haysbert were classmates at Southern University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge and had seen each other only in passing during the recent years.

 It wasn’t about lupus, either, she said. “I really didn’t know then why she needed a kidney,” Greggs said.  Lupus had attacked Haysbert’s kidneys and rendered her at a stage three kidney disorder. Both kidneys were removed and Haysbert began dialysis three times a week. She also began looking for a donor.  In 2011, Haysbert was scheduled to receive her son’s kidney but was later cancelled due to his erratic blood pressure. “So, he was ruled out and I am an only child,” said Haysbert who had to look to extended family and friends for a possible match. Many of them did not have the blood type to match Haysbert’s, were not willing, had health issues—high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and high cholesterol—that prevented them from donating their kidney to her. Due to her medical conditions and the aggressive lupus, Haysbert could not receive a cadaver organ. She needed a living donor.

“I was waiting and praying, praying and waiting,” said Haysbert. Fate would have it such that Greggs would be invited by her friend Sondra to tailgate at one of Southern University’s home games and Haysbert would enter the tent with friends. They said hello and went their separate ways. “Then, I heard her say she still needed a kidney, and I turned to her and said ‘I’ll do it. Give me the information and I’ll get tested (to check for a match)’.”

Just like that? With no hesitancy? Yes.

Just like that, Greggs had committed to getting screened.

Once confirmed, Greggs would see the yearlong process through from preparation to recovery. Even after losing her job, she would keep her commitment to donate and even continue paying her own medical expenses for the all phases of the transplant. Twice, the women’s scheduled transplant was cancelled by the hospital and caused delays.

 “I was just honored that she thought enough of me to this,” said Haysbert. “I am so grateful that she would put her life on hold for me…I have so many emotions.  I felt honored.”

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Muriel Haysbert

 Greggs said, “It has never been about her. God saved her life, He just used me as a vessel.”

 “For me to be able to actually give a gift of life that’s a feeling that’s hard for me to explain it. When you see those things: ‘be a hero, donate,’ that resonates with me.”  That is the same reason she spends as many as three days a month at the United Blood Center in Baton Rouge donating her Type O-positive blood. I seem to have it in abundance so why not give it to someone who needs it,” she said.

“Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to help one another?” she asked rhetorically. Then, she explained: “My father was a giver. I grew up always hanging with him and watching how much he gave and gave to his band members. Giving wasn’t hard for me to do,” said Greggs of her father Isaac Greggs, famed director of Southern University’s Human Jukebox Marching Band.

Did that giving spirit lead her to giving away kidney?

“No,” she said bluntly and laughed. “It’s just something I felt I was supposed to do”

 But her sons and friends felt differently. “There wasn’t anybody who supported me in my decision,” she said. ‘One friend said, ‘I don’t know if I could do this for a someone who is not my family and even then I’d be hesitant’.” That feeling is common.  In the United States, three in four donors are biologically related to the recipient, according to Transplantliving.org. Greggs represents the one donor who is not.

 “This was tough,” Jamal said, but “she kept pushing.” He and his brother, Kyle, cared for her through the testing and, now, as she is recovering and looking for work. “She a role model…” he said.

“Colette doesn’t like you to make a big deal about it but this is something from my wildest dreams…it’s like I woke up in Heaven,” said Haysbert. “ I’m happy. I’m at peace…Colette has helped me with that,” she said. Today, Haysbert is no longer on dialysis and has returned to working part time. “I am thankful and blessed!”

Greggs said she will explain to anyone the process for becoming a donor, but she has no plans to become a champion or a spokesperson to get people to sign up. “It is not for everyone,” she said.

If she had it to do all over again—the months of doctor’s appointments, medical tests, a pap smear, a colonoscopy, the constant flow of medical bills, travel to and from New Orleans, surgery, and the pain of recovery while unemployed—would she?

Although, the experience was not “all good,” Greggs said, “Yes. I would do it again.”

Just like that.

By candace j semien
Jozef Syndicate‎

@jozefsyndicate

Comments
One Response to “Don’t call her a hero or a champion”
  1. Jeneal Banks says:

    Ms. Greggs restores my faith in humanity.

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