Shared Values: Courage
Courage: We act boldly in making the changes necessary to achieve our mission, vision and promise of delivering remarkable healthcare.
When NHRMC officially partnered with Novant Health on February 1, we adopted the mission, vision, values and people credo that will shape the future of this healthcare organization. Novant’s values reflect what we built at NHRMC and expands upon it.
We are asking our team members to share stories that illustrate the values of our united organization.
Today’s article is about Carolyn Brown, a nursing supervisor and member of the Organ Donor Team at NHRMC. Carolyn’s actions demonstrate uncommon courage in the name of health and friendship.
In December 2014, NHRMC’s Carolyn Brown gave a friend a special life-saving gift—a kidney. Her courageous decision forever improved the life of her friend.
Brown and Tammy Hollingsworth, friends for more than 25 years, met at church. When Brown’s children were young, Hollingsworth was their Sunday School teacher. For years, Brown, Hollingsworth and their families attended church together, socialized, and celebrated Thanksgiving together at Hollingsworth’s parents’ house. Brown assists with a camp for girls that Hollingsworth directs, and after Hollingsworth moved to Georgia, they remained close. It’s a friendship both describe as more like a family kinship. Sharing a kidney only brought the close friends closer.
After learning Hollingsworth was experiencing kidney failure and would likely need a transplant at some point, Brown, a Nursing Supervisor and Administrative Operations Officer, said she casually discussed one night over dinner giving Hollingsworth her kidney after discovering they had the same blood type. “I said ‘Well when you need your kidney, you got one. So, don’t worry,’” Brown said.
Though the friends often joke around, Hollingsworth believed Brown was serious, but she wasn’t prepared to ask for or expect such a gift. “That’s a lot to ask of somebody, or even to receive from somebody,” Hollingsworth said. But Brown, Hollingsworth said, offered without hesitation and without her even asking, which she said is a testament to the type of person and “amazing” friend Brown is.
Brown checked on Hollingsworth often. “Because she is such a great friend, she would always ask what’s going on and what are your numbers. She’d ask me to send her my information because she wanted to know what it was, and she would even explain it to me, which was great because she has that medical knowledge,” Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth said she lived normally with only one functioning kidney for more than eight years before being told by her nephrologist her kidney’s function had worsened and it was time to consider a transplant. Hollingsworth said she remembers telling her husband the news over the phone as she left her doctor’s office. Then she sat in her car and prayed.
Soon, she received a call. “Ok, tell me what I need to do and who I need to call. I’m giving you a kidney,” Brown told Hollingsworth.
“We started the process, and it turned out I was a very good match,” Brown said. “They do a lot of testing, and you have to meet milestone after milestone. As you get closer, you’re like ‘okay this is really going to happen.’ But never once was I nervous. I have a very strong faith in God. I believed if I had that desire in my heart and I had peace about it, then it’s supposed to happen. If it’s not supposed to happen, the door will be shut. I had peace with my decision.”
Before the surgery, Hollingsworth brought silver necklaces with a kidney on it for her and Brown. In December 2014 Brown and Hollingsworth underwent the transplant surgery at Augusta University Health in Augusta, Ga.
Brown said since the procedure she and Hollingsworth have been doing well. “The data is good for living donors not to have issues later on,” Brown said. “I’m completely fine. I’m very blessed. Tammy is doing great.”
Hollingsworth, a social worker and therapist who works with foster children and their families, said she is grateful every day not only for being a recipient of her friend’s kidney but also for their friendship. “You don’t ever expect that needing a kidney is the position that you will ever have to be in, but I’m very thankful that the Lord provided a friend for me years before I ever had that need,” Hollingsworth said. “I thank the Lord every single day for Carolyn. She’s really amazing.”
Despite giving her friend a live-saving gift, Brown said she doesn’t feel like a hero, but said she’s simply glad she was able to do it. “It’s a really cool feeling,” Brown said. “It’s a neat thing, and not everyone gets to do it. It’s a privilege.”
Hollingsworth said Brown may be modest about what she did, but the risk Brown took is something she’ll never forget. “She took a risk of her own health and her own life for me, and it’s overwhelming at times to think that I’ve had six extra years with my family and my kids, and I’m having a quality of life that I would not have had if it had not been for her,” Hollingsworth said.
“Becoming a living donor is a personal decision,” Brown said, adding she has no regrets. Brown admits embarking on the journey of being a living donor can require some courage. “You’re volunteering to undergo a pretty serious surgery, so you are putting your life at risk. Therefore, it does take a little bit of courage, but I didn’t think about that. You can be courageous even with fear.”
NHRMC supports organ donation and works with Carolina Donor Services to help fulfill the wishes of patients and their families who choose organ donation. Brown has been a part of this effort. “When I heard there was a committee, I volunteered to be a part of it,” she said. “I’m a big believer in donations, especially if you agree to be a cadaver donor. Why take your organs with you after you die if they are good? There’s eye donation, tissue donation, bone, there’s so many cool things they can do with tissue that can help other people.”