When her son was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening kidney condition, a woman from Prince George's County, Maryland, didn't think twice about donating her kidney.
Cheryl Whitaker never imagined that a health crisis would strike her eldest son. But at 22, Christopher needed a kidney transplant.
Cheryl was a match.
She didn’t hesitate. She donated her kidney to her son just weeks before Mother's Day, possibly extending his life by decades.
“He came in and he said, ‘You are a hero,’ and I didn’t feel like a hero,” the mother of four said. “I think that any mom would do this.”
Christopher was finishing college and was excited about starting a career in IT, when doctors found that he had a rare kidney disease, known as FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis), which destroys kidney functions.
“It was weird, because I had no real symptoms. I felt normal. I felt like a very healthy adult,” he said.
Eight months ago, doctors said Christopher needed a transplant to survive.
His father, mother and two younger brothers were tested to see if they were a match. It turned out every one of them was.
The brothers were the most logical donors because they were younger, stronger and healthier. But for Cheryl, who’s in her 50s, it wasn’t even an option.
“They were willing to do it, but there’s no way I could have two sons on that table,” she said.
For the Whitaker family, it was a miracle that Cheryl was a match for her son. Some people wait on the transplant list for years or some people’s donors back out, Christopher said.
“The fact that my mom stepped up, and not once, never complained ... that made me feel much better,” he said.
The transplant happened two weeks ago. Both Cheryl and Christopher are doing fine, and Christopher’s new kidney is already working.