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A gift of a lifetime: Knoxville first responder donates kidney to patient

"I came to find out I and he was a 99% match. That was a miracle," said Vicky Taylor about her organ donor.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A North Knoxville neighbor is recovering after she received a gift of a lifetime. That gift is an organ from a Knoxville first responder, whose commitment to saving lives comes not only from fighting fires.

The story of Vicky Taylor and Jody Smither is one of miracles. They're two people from different backgrounds, now connected for life through a kidney donation. 

 "When he called me that day, and he goes, 'I'm a match, and I can do it.' It was just emotional," Taylor said.

That match came from one simple yard sign on the street. It read, "Vicky Taylor Needs a Kidney Donor." Those words set a fire in one firefighter's heart to be that donor. 

"The longer I looked at the sign, I knew who would I be, to not at least try," Smith said.

For Taylor, Smith was the answer to her prayers. For two years, Taylor had undergone extensive medical treatment for her kidney failure. She was soon placed on the University of Tennessee Medical Center Transplant list.

Doctors told her it would be years before she could receive a donor. Right now, the average wait time for a person to receive a donor is around five years. This can be longer in certain parts of the country. 

"That was heart-wrenching. It was very hard. I thought, 'I don't know if I can do it this long,'" Taylor said

The answer to her prayers came with another test of life. In Smith's last part of testing, doctors told him he had a 77% blockage on the left side of his heart. A procedure to fix that would end the chance of saving Taylor's life.

But then, the unimaginable happened.

"They came back and said there's no blockage," Smith said. 

 Now they are each other's heroes.

"He's my hero, and he will be my hero for life. He is my rock," Taylor said about Smith.

"She's the hero. She's the one who was sick for so long," Smith said about Taylor.

Taylor said the moment doctors placed Smith's kidney in her body, it turned bright pink and started working almost instantly. 

A kidney transplant from a living donor can expand someone's lifetime by between 15 years and 20 years. If you are interested in being an organ donor, you can call the University of Tennessee Medical Center at 865-305-5340.

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