Turning Pain into Power
By Caitlin LarkinOrgan Donation and Transplantation April 24, 2014
Alecia McClung, a mother of three, had struggled with Type I diabetes for most of her life. By the time she reached her late thirties, an organ transplant was her last hope. She was on the transplant list at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and without a new kidney and/or pancreas her chances of being able to raise her children to adulthood were slim.
Penny Bady, a mother of two, is a longtime employee at the Northwestern Comprehensive Transplant Center. On December 12, 2003, she was at work when she received a phone call that every parent dreads: Her oldest son, Maurice, had been shot near their home. She raced to another hospital, where Maurice was on life support while a medical team worked to save his life, but eventually they realized that there was no hope for him.
Bady says, "I had this child who was energetic, athletic and full of life. I thought, ‘Let me not be selfish and make the decision to donate his organs."
McClung received one of Maurice’s kidneys during a transplant at Northwestern Memorial. She says, “After the surgery, even in the Intensive Care Unit, I had so much life in me compared to before. I remember how grateful I was that somebody had decided to help me live.”
McClung wrote a letter to the family of her donor, and through the Gift of Hope organization, the letter reached Bady. As the first anniversary of Maurice’s death approached, Bady called McClung to invite her to a memorial service for Maurice. McClung attended the service with her family and the two quickly realized how much they had in common.
More than ten years later, Bady and McClung remain fast friends. They refer to each other as sisters and often participate in organ donation awareness and advocacy work together.
McClung says, “It took so much for Penny to take that loss and use it to help other people. She has taught me how to turn pain into power, and I will be grateful forever.”
Donate to transplant medicine at the Northwestern Comprehensive Transplant Center. For more information about how philanthropy supports transplant medicine, please contact Ann Murray at Northwestern Memorial Foundation via email or at 312.926.7073.