CRESTVIEW — A kidney chain in Alabama surpassed 100 recipients on July 20 making it the longest running kidney chain in the nation. It started when one Crestview woman donated her kidney to a stranger.
That woman is former Bulldog, Paula King. She listened to a friend’s story about his decision to donate a kidney to his father.
“It gave his dad extended life that they could spend together," King said, "and that struck me that it was a very noble and a good thing to do.”
A few years later, King’s husband at the time needed a bone marrow transplant from someone, and finding a match became an issue.
“It was not a good feeling knowing that his livelihood was at somebody else’s mercy, a stranger,” King said.
King decided to call The University of Alabama at Birmingham, an academic medical center, because they did kidney transplant surgeries.
“It was sort of like the Holy Spirit had been telling me for a while, 'You need to do this,'” King said.
King called UAB in 2013 and offered her kidney for donation. It took a month but they found a recipient: Shalimar resident Lornette Stewart.
At the time, King said she wanted her donation to remain anonymous, afraid she wouldn’t approve of the recipient.
However, King said she decided to allow the recipient to contact her after encouragement from the hospital staff.
When she heard from Stewart, King said she knew the donation was meant to be.
“She sent me an email, and when I opened it up, she started out by saying, ‘God has blessed me by this’,” King said. “That got me teary-eyed because then I knew God had been telling me all along to do this.”
In 1995, Stewart’s battle began with Lupus, which affected her kidneys. She needed a donor, and her daughter, Jovi Williams, was not a match.
Stewart said UAB contacted her daughter and asked if she would be willing to donate a kidney on behalf her mother.
Williams agreed to donate, not realizing she was beginning the longest-running kidney chain—a series of transplants in which family members donate a kidney to someone in need on behalf of a loved one receiving a donation.
“Every time we look at the chain … We just see what God has done, what He orchestrated,” Stewart said. “I look at it now, and all the people have received transplants because the first person said yes.”
Although they attended Navy boot camp in 1986, Stewart and King didn’t know each other personally. King said they have met in person and have visited together a few times.
King, Stewart, and Williams are all currently in good health.
For more information about the kidney chain, visit www.crestviewbulletin.com.