Grand Junction woman gets the gift of life thanks to a stranger

Brittany Driscoll, Laura Patricks
Brittany Driscoll, Laura Patricks(Photo courtesy: St. Mary's Hospital)
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 11:30 AM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - A Grand Junction woman has a new lease on life after a complete stranger volunteered to become a living organ donor.

Laura Patricks received a life-changing diagnosis 14 years ago, after moving to Grand Junction from Denver to be closer to be with her parents. An infection she had been fighting for six months landed her in the St. Mary’s Emergency Room just after moving, where things went from bad to worse.

“When I got here, the lady said, ‘[the infection] is the least of your problems,’” said Patricks. “We just ran a blood test on you and your kidneys are only working at seven percent.”

According to St. Mary’s Hospital, kidneys are considered functioning at a normal rate when they are at 60 percent or higher. Patricks said she was determined to avoid dialysis, and knew she’d have to make diet and lifestyle changes.

“I think if it’s a life-or-death situation you’re looking at, you’re totally different than everybody else,” said Patricks. “And I think the focus was also that I needed to prove to myself that I could do this, I’ll be okay.”

Patricks said she cut out processed foods, avoided salt, and made more conscious efforts to take care of her body. Over the years, her kidney function improved from barely functional to more than 20 percent at times, but the fixes often didn’t last.

Patricks still needed a permanent fix: a functional replacement for her ailing kidney. She spent three years on the transplant list. A list that keeps growing. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 3,000 people get added to the list every month, and 13 people die every day just waiting for a donation.

“I call it the forever list,” said Patricks. “You don’t even know what your number is on the list. It just keeps getting bigger.”

Patricks was adopted and didn’t know her biological family’s health history, complicating the effort to find a match. Everything changed one day in June 2022 when she went to St. Mary’s to have her blood checked. That’s when she met Brittany Driscoll, a medical assistant with St. Mary’s.

“It just happened that that particular day she drew my blood,” said Patricks. “And she was asking questions about like, ‘are you on the list? How long have you been on the list?’”

While it may seem like just a chance meeting, both Patricks and Brittany Driscoll believe it was anything but chance.

“Ever since I was little, I always knew that I was going to help people,” said Driscoll. “I knew there was a reason why I started at the nephrology department.”

“I just kept praying about it, praying about it thinking, there’s a reason why she asked me,” said Patricks.

That night, Driscoll got on the UCHealth website, filled out donor information, and the next day she got the call and got the ball rolling.

“That’s when I learned that you could live a perfectly normal life with just one kidney,” said Driscoll. “And something told me, my little guardian angel, to ask these questions to Laura.”

Both Patricks and Driscoll believe it was divine intervention, putting them both right where they needed to be. “It really is a godsend thing,” said Patricks. “Because when you pray so much to have something come to you, and then all sudden, it’s sent to you. He never fails.”

“When everything happens for a reason, I know that that was God just coming down saying that this is her, this is the one that you’re supposed to be with,” said Driscoll.

Patricks finally found someone who could donate. The only problem though; Driscoll wasn’t a match for her. But because she had a donor, UCHealth was able to connect the pair with two other kidney recipients and donors. They were able to do a cross match and through that, three people were able to get life-saving kidneys.

The surgery happened in August 2022 at UCHealth in Denver. Since then Patricks and Driscoll are both back at work and living life as they did before.

“Everything just went so smoothly, and the doctors were incredible and so helpful,” said Driscoll. “They just gave me peace that it was going to work out.”

Going forward, should Patricks or Driscoll need a new kidney, they’ll be taken care of.

“So, if I do in the future, I go to the top of the list,” said Driscoll. “It’s kind of like another thing like, nothing holding you back.”

Patricks still has to go into St. Mary’s to get her blood checked to monitor her kidneys. But now, she gets to see the woman who gave her the gift of life. She now has a new kidney and a new friend and sister.

“She sees me every day, so she sees the results of what she did,” said Patricks. “And I think that would be the greatest thing that you could ever give anybody is the gift of life.”

“You can live a perfectly normal, long, healthy life with just one kidney,” said Driscoll. “It’s all in God’s timing and the fact that you can help save someone’s life and give them a longer life is the best reward that you can ever ask for.”

If you’d like more information about becoming a living donor, please visit this link.