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When Tammi Cummings learned that her sister, Terri McMillan, needed a kidney transplant after a 40-year history of diabetes finally took its toll on her health, she never hesitated for a second about the idea of providing one of her own kidneys.
Cummings, 52, of West Melbourne, Fla., not only gave her sister a renewed lease on life by donating one of her kidneys, but she has shown that doing so wasn’t a major physical disruption in her life. In fact, just two weeks after donating her kidney, she participated in a 5K walk called the “National Kidney Foundation Footprints in the Sand Walk” at the Cocoa Beach Pier.
“My doctors told me to start walking to help speed up my recovery, so that’s exactly what I did,” says Cummings. “The short-term discomfort of donating my kidney was nothing compared to the reward of knowing that I was able to help my sister, who was suffering from kidney disease.”
Her sister, Terri McMillan, 59, of Savannah, Ga., was told in October 2012 that she faced dialysis if she was unable to receive a kidney transplant soon.
“Our goal was to take care of this medical issue before Terri ever had to go on dialysis,” says Cummings. “Fortunately, things worked out well, and it never got to that point.”
McMillan’s first visit to Mayo Clinic in Florida occurred in November 2012, and she was approved and put on the transplant list in February 2013. By April, her sister was evaluated and approved as a matching donor, and the surgery took place at Mayo on May 14. By June 1, Cummings was walking in the 5K kidney walk back home to honor her sister.
“I have a lot more energy now and am able to do much more physically than I was able to do before the transplant, “McMillan says. “Needless to say, I love my sister and am eternally grateful to her. It’s an incredible thing to be able to give someone their life back.”
Now a few months later, McMillan’s new kidney is functioning well, and Cummings is feeling pretty much back to normal with no limitations on physical activity.
“There’s really nothing I can’t do now that I could do before the surgery,” says Cummings. “Sure, I sometimes get a bit tired more easily, but that will pass in time as I regain my stamina. It is a small sacrifice when you consider that my sister has a new life ahead of her.”
While living donors must be generally healthy and free of any major diseases, Cummings says her recovery is a testimony to the fact that people in decent health can do this with minimal impact on their lives.
“I’m not a fitness fanatic. I am a mom, a grandmother, a wife, a daughter and a sister. I work full time and live a modest life. If I can do this, anyone can,” Cummings says. “It’s a phenomenal experience, and I hope anybody who is considering becoming a kidney donor will follow their hearts and give the gift of life.”