Life after donation: Georgia woman encouraging others to be organ donors

A Georgia woman is encouraging others to become organ donors after she donated a kidney to her father.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:19 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:20 PM EST
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BUFORD, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The bond between a daughter and her father can be strong and unshakable; this rings true for Leta Brooks Hays and her father, Frank Perry.

“Her and I have always seemed to have a certain bond,” Perry said. “It is even unspoken. You know it, you feel it, you live it.”

When Perry got sick, went on dialysis and eventually needed a kidney donor, it was no surprise to Brooks Hays that she was her dad’s perfect match.

“I had this inner knowing. I can’t tell you where it comes from, but I knew in that moment I was going to give him a kidney,” she said. “We matched all five of the markers, 100%.”

So the duo went through the surgery, and Brooks Hays gave her father a kidney.

“I was overwhelmed, joyous, apprehensive to what it might do to her,” Perry said.

It turns out he wasn’t the only one concerned for Brooks Hays. Friends and other family members voiced concerns about her quality of life as well.

“I didn’t sit with that fear,” Brooks Hays said. “I think I just moved forward once the decision was made, which was no decision for me. I just knew that I was going to do this.”

Brooks Hays recovered and started training. She has run over 25 races since the surgery.

“I always knew she could do it,” Perry said.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, and kidney transplants are continuing to increase.

“In 2022, more than 25,000 kidney transplants were performed in a single year for the first time,” the organization said. “This represents more than half of the total number of transplants for the year, which continued a decades-long trend of increases.”

“You can still live just as healthy, just as active on one kidney. You can do everything that you did before. You just don’t have to be afraid,” Brooks Hays said.

She’s headed to Guatemala in December to hike volcanoes with other organ donors. They will summit three volcanoes in one week.

Brooks Hays was chosen as one of 19 kidney donors across the country to take part in what is called the One Kidney Climb through a nonprofit called Kidney Donor Athletes. The nonprofit helps empower kidney donors and inspires others to become donors themselves. Last year, the participants hiked Kilimanjaro.

It is all to make a statement: You don’t have to be afraid – you can still live a full life.