RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Two pairs of siblings in Central Virginia have donated kidneys to each other in order to save each other’s lives.
South Hill resident Evon Walker has worked with the South Hill Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for nearly 21 years, asking drivers if they would like to be an organ donor.
“It’s for everyone out there that thought that they were at the end of the world,” said Walker.
Little did the drivers know, her strength was dwindling. Walker said she went to a doctor seven years ago, got a kidney biopsy, and doctors found a problem.
At 57-years-old, Walker was diagnosed with Minimal Change Disease, a disease that affects the kidneys. At the time of the diagnosis she had 50% function and it quickly dropped to 15% in just a few years.
In May of 2020, she was told that she was the one in need of a donor.
Meanwhile, in Chesterfield, Hughton Maye, who loved ones call “Sam,” was diagnosed in 2004 with diabetes. In 2019, he was told that his kidney was starting to fail and that he had to do dialysis at home seven days a week.
Maye told 8news he had to hook himself up to a machine at night for 12 hours into the morning. Maye did this for two years.
According to Maye, doctors told him that it could take anywhere from 5-10 years before a recipient could find a donor.
Desperately wanting to help, his sister Sophia Maye-Smith tested to see if she was a match. She was initially told that she was a match, however doctors told the siblings that if they decided to go through with the transplant, his healthy kidney could have been damaged.
Doctors had a better option.
“Sometimes we are thinking that you have to be the same race, the same age, the same all of these things,” Maye-Smith said. “In this case, it would have been a detriment for my brother, but for Evon, it’s a blessing.”
Through Donate Life Virginia, Walker was told in June of 2021 that doctors found her a kidney. The two families learned about the swap program.
The perfect match was Maye and his sister who lived just an hour away. Evon would receive a kidney from Sophia and Hughton would receive a kidney from Evon’s sister, Carol Chapman.
The surgery was completed the next month.
At the time, Walker was not introduced to the other siblings. She only knew that it was a brother-sister team and that they were within a 250 mile radius of VCU Richmond.
“I’m here, and I didn’t have to be here,” Maye said. “Someone gave me a chance. Carol gave me a chance to be here. And I’m going to make the best of it.”
Maye called Chapman his ‘sister.’
“No matter what color the skin is, everybody’s the same on the inside,” Chapman said. “It’s the feeling that you get by giving that other person a perfect kidney and organ and giving them a second chance of their life. I haven’t looked back. I would do it again.”
Since meeting the week before Thanksgiving, the siblings said they’re thankful and are bonded for life.
“We’re family and we’re going to continue to be in touch with each other,”
The families told 8news that they now have each other’s phone numbers, addresses and email addresses. They even sent each other Christmas cards this past year.
Maye said that, with a new perspective on life, he goes to the gym six days a week. He also plans to go on a cruise at the end of the year.
If you’d like to learn more about living donation visit Donate Life Virginia.