|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
||Contact: Valerie Avery
|April 28, 2011
BIG SPRING - Terry Watkins will tell you straight up that it’s his fault he needed a new kidney.
He didn’t take care of his diabetes or his hypertension.
That oversight forced a kidney shutdown, requiring years of dialysis and a kidney transplant.
The Big Spring State Hospital Security Officer spent two years on the waiting list, always apprehensive, always waiting, always hopeful.
“Each time the phone rang, you were just on edge,” he said. “You were a little excited.”
Now the poster boy for good health, Watkins exercises at the Howard College Harold Davis Fitness Center where he works part-time. “I go just about any chance I get,” he said.
Kidney failure and the ensuing dialysis treatments are two periods in his life he would rather have avoided.
“Anyone who has ever been on dialysis knows that it’s just no fun,” Watkins said. “Three days a week, four hours a day. It’s just not fun.”
Watkins, who worked at the hospital for a nine-year stretch in the 1980s and 1990s and left to take a job at the prison in Colorado City began his schooling as a medical assistant in 2008. Shortly thereafter, his worsening diabetes triggered his kidney shutdown and he was unable to finish his schooling.
He was put on the kidney donor waiting list with LifeGift in Lubbock and given a long list of instructions regarding what to do in the meantime.
“You just anticipate so much,” he said of the wait.
When the phone rang on January 19 of 2010, Watkins and his wife, Maria of 22 years, a Shift Team Leader at Big Spring State Hospital, left with already packed bags.
“Every time I heard the phone ring, I started getting nervous because they tell you that as soon as you get the call you have to leave,” Watkins said. “Not so much nervous but excited with anticipation.”
Right after the call, the couple left for the two-hour drive to Lubbock where upon arrival, Watkins began another battery of tests and his wait for surgery. The next afternoon he received a kidney from a young woman – another recipient in the next room received the donor’s other kidney.
The days following the surgery were emotionally tiring, Watkins said.
“I felt fine, and everything was good but I was down a little bit because they put you on a heavy dose of Prednisone and the Prednisone plays a big part of that - it really messes with your mind,” Watkins said. “In my mind I kept thinking that someone had to die for me to get the kidney. But I am glad that she was an organ donor.”
“I think everyone goes through that at first. I was so sad that someone else had to die for me to live. It really made me so very, very sad.”
Watkins spent the time in the hospital penning a very heartfelt letter to his donor’s family. Each donor has the option of leaving word for the donor’s family. It is the donor’s choice whether to respond or even to accept the letter. Watkins has not heard from the family but understands all too well the heartbreak of their situation.
He continues his medication regimen and follow-up appointments in Lubbock. And he has become an outspoken advocate for organ donation.
“I think everyone should donate their organs,” Watkins said. “I mean, you save lives.”
Big Spring State Hospital has volunteered to participate in LifeGift’s hospital campaign to register employees to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. The hospital is competing with area hospitals to register the most employees as organ donors.
Information on becoming a living donor has been distributed throughout the hospital and response has been favorable, said Quality Management Director Cindy Sturdivant, BSN, RN, BC. “We’ve had a good response,” Sturdivant said. “I am still visiting departments and getting the word out.”
“We need to get people signed up for that save a lot of lives,” Watkins said. “I am standing here because someone donated.”
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