THE WOODLANDS, Texas - Two former classmates at The Woodlands High School want to inspire you to do something different this year. Donating an organ might seem like an unusual choice, but if you’re healthy, there is really very little risk to make a lifesaving donation.
Nada Dorman and Frida Brooks went their separate ways after high school graduation.
"We were friends, casually," said Dorman.
"I hadn’t spoken to her since we were in high school. We were in the same homecoming group," said Brooks.
But a chance encounter on Facebook more than two decades later would lead to an emotional reunion.
Last year, Brooks got online to begin the uncertain journey of finding a kidney donor for her then six-year-old son, Elliot. Doctors diagnosed him with Congenital Nephrotic Syndrome. His body couldn’t flush out fluids.
"What did you think when you started looking for a donor? Did you think, ‘this is a daunting process?’" asked Sally MacDonald.
"I did not think…I mean the coordinator encouraged us to put it on social media, and you never know who’s going to sign up. I did it. I was uncomfortable with it. I just didn’t really think anything was going to come from it," said Brooks.
The Facebook post included how devastated they were to learn neither Frida nor her husband was a match. Dialysis would begin and perhaps years of waiting.
At the same time, Nada Dorman was a busy working mom of two healthy boys. She was getting over long COVID and rarely checks Facebook but happened to see the post one day and reached out.
"I thought, ‘Sure I’ll throw my hat in the ring.’ I mean, I could just as easily be her, and Elliot just as easily could be mine, so why wouldn’t it be me that was willing to donate," she said.
"I mean I was desperate for my son to have an organ, but I was also blown away by someone’s gift and generosity that she just put her hand up and never thought twice about it," said Brooks.
Turns out Dorman was a perfect match, and late last year she and Elliot underwent surgery. A patient who receives a kidney from a living donor has a higher rate of survival, and you may be surprised to learn living donors don’t need both kidneys for a normal life.
"What were your biggest fears going into it?" asked Sally.
"I didn’t have a lot of fear. I mean if anything I think I had a lot of faith that it was going to work out. I think going into it the challenging things were logistics," said Dorman.
Dorman had to fly from Texas to Chicago where Elliot lives, spending ten days away from her own boys to save the life of another. Four months later and her incision is healing. She’s able to exercise again and will continue to have follow up appointments.
"She embodies the ‘be the change’ you wish for the world, and it’s just incredible," said Brooks.
Elliot is doing well, too. He loves sports, is growing fast and no longer needs dialysis. He also video chats regularly with the woman his mom sort of knew in high school who’s now considered family.
"I know this is a very untraditional thing to do, but if we all thought to give in a way that made the world a better place, like if we all donated blood once every eight weeks, or if we all thought to give to the food pantry every time we went to the grocery store, our communities would look a lot different," said Dorman.
And when the time is right, Elliot’s mom says she, too, plans to donate a kidney to save the life of someone like her son.
Dorman and Brooks both hope to also encourage more people to become organ donors after death on their driver’s license. You can find out more at donatelifetexas.org. As for the cost of donating, Dorman says a combination of insurance and the organization Children’s Organ Transplant Association or COTA paid for everything from the tests to surgery and travel.