Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Personal Story and Call to Help a Young Girl

Earlier this year, I met a young girl who would save my life. Now, I am sharing the story in hopes of finding someone to help her. 

I met Thalya when I was exploring becoming a living kidney donor for her. I had received an email from Joe’s school asking for help in finding a Type-O living donor for a young student with late stage kidney disease. I get and dismiss so many emails from them, I’m not sure why I opened this one, but I distinctly recall sitting on my mom’s couch in Florida for the holiday break and telling her, “I think I’m going to look into this.” Over the following weeks, I spoke with several people, from those on the donor team to other living donors. But most importantly, I got to know Thalya’s mom Chantal, who always reminded me that I was not obligated to follow through on donation in any way and that the interest in donation was amazing in itself. She was a wealth of knowledge and a pillar of motherly strength, joy and optimism. 

We became friends via calls and emails. When I got to meet Thalya and Chantal in person, Thalya shared openly about her experiences in managing her nutritional plan through dialysis, how she has continued her learning as a high school student outside the school setting, and how she and her mom successfully advocated for music therapy for outpatients, for her and for other children who now benefit from it. We realized we had mutual friends, another amazing mother and daughter combo. I sensed a lifetime of connection in this short meeting and felt sure it was fate I had been led to Thalya. I had no doubt that this experience was meant to be.

When I went through the extensive evaluation process a few weeks later, one of the scans revealed a tumor in my kidney. Since it was in an early stage, it would likely have gone undiscovered for years had I not gone through this process. April was a quick study in nephrology, kidney surgery, and treatment for a phantom disease I didn’t even know I had, and by mid May, it was out and I was declared a survivor though I never had to battle. Now it has moved into the past of my life, a blessing of discovery marked only by a few new scars. 

I’ve experienced a lot of emotions through this process. There were moments of fear in the beginning, greatly outshined by optimism and immense gratitude. But a very hard thing to deal with has been the sorrow and disappointment in recognizing I could not help Thalya. Our lives were certainly linked together in fate, but it wasn’t in the hopeful way we had both imagined.  

The past few months have made me recognize the power of an instant decision. In the impulsive click of the “Reply” button, I altered a life, even if not the one I thought I would change. Sometimes you meet someone so remarkable it seems unfair every person in the world cannot know and meet them. This is true of Thalya. I feel a debt to Thalya for her strength, for being a kidney soul sister, and for saving my life. My hope is that in sharing this story, I can lead others to explore living donation. It would be wonderful to help find a match for Thalya so that the strength of her body can measure up to her courage, grit, and loving presence. If you are interested or know of anyone who might be, please share the message for us, and email for more information.


  1. Amazing, Tiff! The power of a giving heart is always deeply blessed. The simple desire to give to another will always save us one way or another... in your case quite literally! God bless you & God bless Thalya.

  2. Desarae Garcia is a social worker, mother, podcast creator, storyteller, and survivor of child sexual abuse. “I'm a huge advocate for people to be trauma informed.