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Johnny Carter

Adopted daughter gives her father the gift of life

Twenty-seven years ago, Johnny Carter remembers getting a call from an adoption agency that changed his life forever. “They said, ‘Can you come pick your child up tomorrow?’ Alison was three weeks old. My wife and I picked her up and never looked back,” he says.

A rare immune disorder

Flash forward to November 2012: Johnny learned he had Goodpasture syndrome, a rare immune system disorder. Despite having no history of kidney problems, Johnny went into kidney failure almost overnight. He was forced to go on dialysis for six months. “It was hard to see that he had to sit there on dialysis for three hours,” says Alison. “It was hard for me, my brother and my entire family to see him take a huge step back from his life.” She knew she wanted to help him however she could.

Johnny’s medical team determined he was a candidate for a transplant at Piedmont Transplant Institute and asked if he had any family members willing to be tested to determine if they were a match. Although there is a good chance that a sibling can be a match for an organ recipient, neither Johnny’s brother nor his sister was a match. “Alison was one of the first ones who stepped up and said, ‘I’m going to be the donor,’” recalls Johnny.

They knew they had the same blood type, but had no idea if her kidney would be a match, especially since she is adopted. “I said, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’” says Johnny. “But it did.”

Giving the gift of life

“It bothered me taking a kidney from Alison, but my dialysis nurse told me, ‘Mr. Carter, you’re not taking it, you’re receiving it,’” he remembers. “The Goodpasture syndrome was the one bad thing that happened, but there have been so many good things since then. It’s been a big learning experience.” Alison says, “It’s been a wonderful experience, in a weird way.”

She is excited to have her father, dialysis-free, walk her down the aisle when she gets married in August. The two have already been practicing their father-daughter dance. “It’s been really special to know that he’s going to be a whole part of the wedding and not have to miss parts of it due to the dialysis,” says Alison.

For his part, Johnny can’t wait to walk Alison down the aisle and will be thinking about the gift she gave him. “I would do it 10,000 times for dad,” says Alison. Johnny adds: “It’s such a gift.”

For more information on living donor transplantation, visit Piedmont Transplant Institute.

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