At Camp BRIDGES, a Lake Martin retreat for children who have had or are in need of an organ transplant, Charline Whyte received a standing ovation. “I was very humbled,” said the 33-year-old organ donor.
Charline had accompanied Mackenzie Jackson, her young kidney recipient, to the camp. It was a miracle in the eyes of Jason and Valerie Jackson, who had watched their 2 1/2-year-old daughter become gravely ill from congenital nephritic syndrome since she was diagnosed with the disorder at two months of age. As the disease progressed toward kidney failure, Mackenzie had to undergo several surgeries, dialysis, and hospital stays that lasted months. Valerie’s mother, Sandra Schultz, was a primary support person for the Jacksons.
“The entire time Mackenzie was sick, you’d never know it. She always had a smile on her face,” Valerie recalls. It was hard to stay positive when Mackenzie’s kidneys had to be removed and no matching donor was in sight. The dialysis treatments helped sustain her life, but barely a year old, Mackenzie began to suffer dangerous complications including a collapsed lung.
Just as hope seemed to be running out for the little girl, Charline was struck by inspiration. At least twice a week, Charline would have lunch in Children’s cafeteria. “I’d walk the halls and see this massive infrastructure ready to work and help others,” she says. “And then I saw the flip side. I saw the frustration in parents’ eyes because they want their child not to be sick. I saw their pain.”
Charline considered herself blessed. She had a healthy 10-year-old daughter. After much soul searching, Charline felt moved to donate her kidney. Her only request was that the recipient be a pediatric patient. Charline’s heroic act gave renewed life to then-16-month-old Mackenzie.
“The first time I met Mackenzie she was still unconscious from surgery,” Charline recalls. “She had a catheter running through and you could see the bag it was attached to and that it was filtering urine. I remember Valerie saying ‘I can’t believe she’s urinating!’ What a miracle. How incredible is science that you can get a kidney from one person and put it in someone else and it work like it is supposed to.”
Since the transplant surgery nearly 1 ½ years ago, Mackenzie is recovering beautifully. Not only has Charline given Mackenzie the gift of life, “she has become a part of our family now,” Valerie says.