LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Before you go out and buy another gift, finish up your decorating, or plan that big holiday meal, what if there was a way to truly get into the holiday spirit with a meaningful way to give back?
This season, a woman is thankful for a gift that doesn’t have a price tag on it. Someone’s loss was her gain.
Twenty years ago, Velina Stacy wanted to help a friend.
"She was dying with kidney problems and she needed transplant," Stacy said. "I told her I would give her a kidney."
Stacy went to the doctor, not expecting to find out she had her own problems.
"I went and got tested and they found out there was an issue with my kidneys," Stacy said.
That would explain why Stacy, a mother of two who worked road construction, started noticing problems with her feet swelling.
“Even cut the sides out of my boots before because my feet would swell and hurt so bad during the day at work,” Stacy said.
In 2013, she ended up having to undergo dialysis. She did that for year. Doctors eventually told her she needed what her friend needed -- a kidney transplant. She had to lose weight first, which took some time.
"I had to lose 100 pounds," Stacy said.
She did it, and in December 2016 she found out she was on the kidney transplant wait list. For a year she had her bags packed, waiting for the phone to ring.
Around Christmas of 2017, it finally did.
“My phone rang -- it was December 23rd, right before Christmas on a Saturday morning -- and I was like who in the world is calling this time in the morning at 6:00?" Stacy said. "And they said, ‘Oh Ms. Stacy this is Jewish Hospital and we wanted to offer you a kidney today’ and I’m like ‘what!’”
A child had died and the parents decided to pass on the organs. Stacy got that child’s kidneys.
“That night my doctor came in and she told me and it broke my heart for that family,” Stacy said. “Their baby had to die and I got their kidneys and it was really sad and it still bothers me. Breaks my heart, but that’s what they wanted for somebody to help somebody.”
The kidney transplant surgery took place at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. What's interesting is that Stacy now has four kidneys, two of her own and two from her donor.
"I got both of them because they are real small," Stacy said.
Stacy spent several days in the hospital, including Christmas and New Years recovering last year. That’s why her latest check up means a lot. Stacy’s physician, Dr. Lina Mackelaite, said Stacy is doing great.
“It can change someone’s life completely,” Mackelaite, the Medical Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplant at Jewish Hospital, said. “It really extends a dialysis patient’s life an average of seven years.”
Stacy could have died waiting for a kidney. She doesn’t know whose kidneys she received, but she is forever grateful.
"I'm gonna live the rest of my life and do everything I can to do for a better life," Stacy said.
At 54-years-old, she’s attending college and loves to exercise.
What’s she looking forward to the most this Christmas is being with family, instead of being in a hospital room.
She’s working on writing a letter to one day give to the parents who gave her another chance at life.
“How much I appreciate it,” Stacy said. “Thank God that they were willing to help someone. My daughter now is an organ donor. She wants to help someone if she can and I think a lot of people needs to consider that to help families. You know it’s really changed my life.”
According to Organdonor.gov, one organ donor can save up to eight lives. More than 114,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list as of August 2017.
For more information on organ donation, click here.