Waiting on an organ transplant list can be demoralizing. Too many times, a patient in need will pass away while waiting for an eligible donor. After waiting months, in some cases, years to get to the top of the donor list, few would be willing to give up their spot for even a ludicrous sum of money.
But for 69-year-old Brenda Jones, it was about doing the right thing. Last summer, the Texas native was at the top of the list, and finally received word that she was going to get the transplant she needed. She was ecstatic. But on the other side of the hospital, a 23-year-old woman fought for her life, and desperately needed the organ that Jones was waiting for.
Brenda Jones was suffering from liver failure and was finally getting a transplant. But not before facing a moral dilemma.
Jones is a great-grandmother and had been waiting on the organ donation list for over a year. Meanwhile, Abigail Flores was only 23 years old. Her liver was failing also, albeit it much more rapidly. She’d just arrived at the Baylor University Medical Center on a helicopter, and without a transplant, wasn’t expected to live for more than a day.
Flores was moved near the top of the transplant list, but without a direct donation, it wouldn’t be enough. With the organ being a perfect match for both patients, Brenda Jones held the life of Abigail Flores in her hands. If she allowed her to have the liver she’d been waiting for, Flores would have a fighting chance at survival.
For Jones, the decision was easy. She couldn’t in good conscience agree to a transplant that would save her life, but end another.
“In my heart, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the liver if I had let this little girl die,” Jones said to WFAA. “And I still had more time … I would have been a very selfish person.”
Jones didn’t hesitate to tell surgeons to give the liver to the young woman who was only one-third her own age.
“The judgment behind it seemed very clear, but it still felt unorthodox nonetheless,” said Dr. Greg McKenna, a transplant surgeon at Baylor Hospital.
When the Flores family got word that a total stranger was willing to sacrifice her own health for the sake of their daughter, they had to meet her. Flores’s father was emotional while standing over the hospital bed where Jones lay.
Surgeons went ahead with the transplant for Flores. But Jones wouldn’t be left waiting much longer.
Just days after Flores received the transplanted originally intended for Jones, another donation became available. This time, Jones had the surgery. She and Flores were both in the hospital recovering at the same time, bound by fate.
Without the generosity of Jones, Flores wouldn’t have lived past 23 years old.
“I think she saved my life,” Flores told WFAA. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be sitting right here right now. I thank God for her each and every day.”