CORYDON, Ind. (WAVE) - WAVE 3 News has passed the cash for more than a decade, but like most things in 2020, all that changed because of that coronavirus. Neighbors, friends and perfect strangers have all been part of a collective effort to make a difference in the lives of those who for some reasons or another were facing financial struggles and hardships.
Pass the Cash at WAVE 3 News makes a difference, but what happens after a recipient’s story airs is often a true miracle. The newsroom has been able to be a part of life-changing gestures from people who reach out when they’re made aware of someone’s pain and tragedy from a Pass the Cash segment.
One of those miracles happened this year.
At the end of 2019, WAVE 3 News traveled to Harrison County, Indiana to pass the cash to a young Corydon woman named Courtney Williams. She was not yet 30 year old, but she was facing kidney failure and possibly the end of her life.
Her friends and former co-workers nominated her for Pass the Cash on WAVE3.com.
“Oh, she’s pulling in,” whispered her friend Stephanie as she peered through the window of the After Hours Care in Corydon.
Williams had no job, no insurance and no money, but she was rich with those who loved her. As Williams entered the After Hours medical facility, she was surprised to see a camera and all of her friends gathered around.
“Put your hand out,” Stephanie explained with a shaky, tearful voice.
Her friends cheered and gathered around Williams to explain exactly what was going on.
“This is great,” she said quietly with tears running down her face. “I’m shocked. I’m so thankful. I’m so grateful.”
That was not the end of her Pass the Cash story. WAVE 3 News viewer Leigh Ann Saylor, founder of Mulligans Living Kidney Donors, a volunteer organization located in Louisville, saw the story and reached out to ask to be put in contact with the Pass the Cash recipient that needed a kidney.
As a nephrectomy patient and the survivor of kidney cancer, WAVE 3 News anchor and Pass the Cash reporter Dawne Gee personally knew Saylor. She was able to call Williams to explain who Saylor was and what she does.
“Oh, I got the blessing of life that day for sure,” Williams said with a laugh as WAVE 3 News touched base with her to update her story this week.
The two were full of gratitude for life, good friends and people that make a difference as they talked to WAVE 3 News via Zoom.
“The journey to find your way through the kidney transplant process itself is a nightmare,” Saylor said.
Saylor knows because ten years ago she began the journey of finding a kidney to save her husband’s life.
“There’s 110,000 people in the United States waiting for organs, and 80,000 of those are kidneys, and the sad fact is most of those people aren’t going to get them unless they find a living donor,” Saylor explained.
Most who need a kidney have no idea where to start or where it will end up. Williams said she knew she needed a kidney but was overwhelmed with dialysis, medication and doctor’s visits.
“We just walk the path with them,” Saylor said of her organization.
Saylor helped Williams make a plea to friends, family, strangers and anyone else who would listen to get tested to see if they could share the gift of life by sharing their spare kidney.
“My brother was my perfect match,” Williams said.
Williams was lucky to find such a perfect match. Doctors told her siblings have a 25% chance of being an exact match for a living donor and a 50% chance of being a half-match.
Donor compatibility is established through blood tests that look for matching blood types and antigens.
“A lot of times it’s not who you think it’s gonna be,” Saylor explained as she talked about her husband’s donor from ten years ago. “His was somebody who played football with him at Trinity High School in 1979.”
Williams is grateful that Saylor reached out to lead her on a journey that saved her life.
“I got in touch with Leigh Ann and I went to the monthly meetings, and with their help got in contact with the University of Cincinnati,” Williams shared. “I got my kidney transplant on July 27.”
Mulligan’s Living Kidney Donors usually meets the second Sunday of each month at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church on Shelbyville Road in Louisville, but the pandemic has put those meetings on hold. Now, they are working to plan virtual meetings.
“There is so much goodness in this world,” Saylor said, proudly counting Williams as a member who received a kidney with the help of Mulligan’s Living Kidney Donors.
She said the group has been able to help 68 people to date, and the list is growing.
“Count your blessings,” Williams said. “Be thankful. Pray to God, and never give up hope.”