Woman gives life to fiancé; donates kidney ahead of their wedding

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana woman is giving a part of herself to her fiancé to improve his quality of life as their wedding nears.

Jeff Graham and Donell Heberer Walton already have a bond that will connect them for a lifetime.

With Jeff's kidneys shutting down because of polycystic kidney disease, Donell made the decision to give him another chance at life after doctors at St. Vincent Hospital determined she was a match for a successful kidney donation.

"She's actually giving me something to prolong my life, so I'm just very thankful and blessed," Graham said.

"I am one of those people who believes all things happen for a reason," Walton said. "You are where you are meant to be at that moment."

Without a transplant, Graham would have needed dialysis.

"That's selfless. That's noble," said Dr. Alvin Wee." The act that they do is just heroic, if you ask me."

After months of doctor visits and testing the transplant team at St. Vincent removed a healthy kidney from Walton using what they described as a relatively simple laparoscopic procedure.

The delicate surgery was completed just steps away in another operating room when the kidney was placed in Graham. The procedure will allow him to carry on a normal life.

"God works through us to help others, and God works through these donors to change the lives of these recipients," said Dr. Islam Ghoneim.

Walton's gift to Graham gives him new perspective.

"I appreciate life a lot more. You appreciate that and what she has given up to help me and prolong my life," he said. "I will be forever grateful for what she's done."

Since the transplant, Graham can now go on long-distance trips. The couple recently traveled to Hawaii and has bigger plans.

"I guess we'll start saving our pennies maybe for Europe now," he said.

Graham and Walton are telling their story to help raise awareness to the importance of living donors.

"People are so amazed that people are able to donate," she said. "It really wasn't a big deal at all, so I was just happy that I was able to do it."

The couple hopes that by sharing their story, more people will consider kidney donation, a selfless act that can change the course of someone's life forever.

Walton said doctors told her that if she ever needed a kidney, she would automatically be put at the top of the transplant list because she was a donor. The cost of her surgery was covered because she was a donor.

Print this article Back to Top