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The gift of life

Sep 29, 2014

Would you donate your kidney to a complete stranger? Christy Harding did.

The 1998 Flagler alumna said she had never imagined donating an organ before until she saw a post on Facebook about a 2-year-old girl in Minneapolis named Arianna Booth who was in need of a new kidney. 

“It broke my heart,” she explained. “I really love to help people. I think that, plus the fact that my own daughter is 2 years old, really touched my heart.” 

Within days, Harding was well on her way through the screening process to find out if she was a match for Arianna. After passing extensive tests, the potential donors were narrowed down to three — and Harding turned out to be the strongest match. 

“When the final approval came, it was so surreal,” she said. 

By this point, Harding had a group of friends and co-workers cheering her on, and after Arianna’s mother, Ashley, announced the good news on Facebook, Harding was finally able to reach out and connect. 

“I e-mailed Ashley’s personal Facebook page and we chatted for hours. From that day on, I feel like we’ve talked almost every day. I couldn’t wait to meet them.” 

In early May, Harding and her family flew up to Minneapolis to meet Arianna and her parents. The mothers bonded at once, exchanging what Harding described as a “fierce hug and some quick tears.” 

The surgery took place on June 18 with great success. Doctors said Harding’s kidney is functioning well for Arianna and her recovery has been smooth. Though Harding pointed out that organ transplants are not a cure. 

“It’s a treatment,” she said. “Arianna will be on medications for the rest of her life to keep her body from rejecting my kidney. There’s no way to predict how long her new kidney will last. Some last 25 years or more — that’s what I hope for her, that it lasts as long as possible before she has to go back on the waiting list for a second one.” 

Harding said the experience has bonded the two families together forever. 

“[We] consider them family now,” she explained. “Ashley sends me pictures and I look forward to seeing Arianna’s progress every day. Every milestone makes my heart so very happy. Arianna is not my daughter, but in a different way, she is part of me and I can’t wait to see her grow up.”

As Arianna continued to recover from surgery, Harding was busy at work on another project for the Booths: A fundraiser for $12,000 to send Arianna and her family to Disney World next year. 

Harding is also asking that more people consider organ donation.  

“Every day people die waiting to receive a life-saving organ, and every day we take our life-saving organs to the grave,” she explained.

To donate to Harding’s GoFundMe project, visit www.gofundme.com/8oolvg

To register for Florida organ donation, visit www.donatelifeflorida.org.

 
 
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