May 31, his adopted daughter Alison, who is getting married Aug. 24, gave him something she couldn’t buy from a store: her kidney. Piedmont Atlanta Hospital in Buckhead performed the kidney transplant surgery, it announced in a news release.
Johnny, who had no history of kidney problems, developed Goodpasture syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue such as the kidneys. He was diagnosed in November. The disease sent him into kidney failure nearly overnight. It is estimated only one in a million Europeans and even less non-Europeans is affected by this rare syndrome.
“At first, whenever I tried to bring up the idea of giving him one of my kidneys, he wouldn’t let me talk about it,” Alison said. “Once he learned that I could recover quickly, still have children, live a normal life and do all the things I want to do, we decided to see if I was a match.”
Johnny and his wife Elizabeth adopted Alison when she was 3 weeks old. Although Johnny knew he and Alison, now 27, shared the same blood type, he had no clue she could be a match for a kidney donation.
“I really hated the idea of taking a kidney from someone, especially from my daughter,” Johnny said. “But a nurse told me, ‘You’re not taking it, Mr. Carter. You’re receiving it.’ Now, I like to think the Lord had a plan all along in bringing us together.”
Just a few short weeks after learning Alison was a match, the two had the surgery at Piedmont Atlanta. The next morning around 3:30 a.m., Jonny walked into Alison’s hospital room to make sure she was doing okay.
“He just wanted to check on his baby girl,” said Alison. “It is amazing to see someone come back to life, knowing your kidney is in their body doing that for them. If I could do it 10 times again for him, I would. Donating a kidney changes so much more than one life. It changes a whole family and sometimes an entire community.”
Kidneys are the most common organs donated by living donors. Of the kidneys transplanted at Piedmont Atlanta, about half are from living donors like Alison. Currently, there are nearly 3,500 people in Georgia waiting for a kidney.
“Living organ donation has become the best option for those needing kidneys,” said Miguel Tan, M.D., transplant surgeon at Piedmont Atlanta. “The number of living organ donors has risen to more than 6,000 per year, and one in four donors isn’t even biologically related to the recipient.”
Today, Carter is feeling more energetic and is looking forward to walking his little girl down the aisle in August.
“Whatever Alison wants, Alison gets. There are no limits to her wedding,” Johnny said, laughing. “When Alison is walking down that aisle, I’ll be thinking about the gift she’s given me and I know everyone else in the church will be, too.”