'He Gave Me Life': Regent Grad Tells How Professor, Who Hardly Knew Her, Gave Her a Kidney
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Chazley Williams, a member of Regent's 2022 graduating class, recently credited her Regent University professor for saving her life, literally.
Williams shared her story with the Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Christian university.
At the time, she enrolled to work on her master's degree in education at the school, Williams was a new homeowner and a newlywed who also worked full-time. In addition, she helped take care of her mother who had dementia and diabetes complications.
In January 2019, she visited an urgent care to treat a severe sinus infection. A high dosage of prednisone was administered to treat the inflammation. Her reaction to the medication sent her to the hospital, where she found out the drug could negatively affect the kidney functions of diabetics.
Williams knew kidney disease was present in her family as her grandfather and mother had suffered from it. But at only 30 years of age, she believed her issues with the disease would be far in the future.
Upon leaving the hospital, she settled back into her normal daily routine, including attending graduate school at Regent. But Williams noticed she was frequently experiencing symptoms of a kidney problem, including headaches and weakness. Choosing to ignore it, she went on with her life.
She had told the school she was excited about her summer course that year titled Law & Governance. The course's instructor, Dr. Ryan Murnane, Ph.D. had a reputation for making the coursework interesting and even entertaining, according to the university.
But then, Williams received bad news from her doctor. Her diabetes had worsened.
"My nephrologist informed me that things had worsened and fast," she recalled. "I had high blood pressure, and my stage 3 diabetes had moved to stage 4. My doctor was talking dialysis."
Chazley Williams' health deteriorated faster than she ever expected. (Photo credit: Chazley Williams/Regent University)
Williams said she was in denial, even waiting several days before telling her husband Brandon. Looking for another answer, the couple tried the vegan lifestyle as suggested by a holistic doctor for about two months before deciding together there had to be a better way to deal with her problem.
In the meantime, the grad student's condition was getting worse. Her nephrologist told her it was time to get her name on the kidney transplant list at VCU/MCV and Duke University Medical Center. It was a process that would include hours of testing and a donor wait that was likely to take up to five years.
"I had always been able to juggle more than my share of responsibilities," Williams recalled. "But things got real when my doctor told me that I was heading into stage 5 kidney disease."
She contacted her Regent faculty advisor, Dr. Jeff Pittman, and requested a leave from her studies. Pittman kindly understood and prayed with her before ending the call. She also reached out to Murnane, her online instructor.
"Professor Murnane shared with me that he had a friend battling kidney failure, and he would definitely be praying for me. And although he really didn't know me, I could tell he really meant it," Williams later told the school.
She was also convinced by her family to reach out on social media to find a donor. But none of the people who contacted her to help were ever tested.
Then in October of 2019, Williams and her husband were in a Kidney Smart class learning about their treatment options when she felt weak. Rushed to the hospital, she was put on emergency dialysis in order to keep her alive.
After she was sent home, she was supposed to self-administer peritoneal dialysis through a port attached to her belly. Without the full use of her arm from birth, her husband and her best friend helped her administer the treatments that lasted eight hours a night, seven days a week.
After more than a year of treatment, she decided to continue to pursue her master's degree at Regent. Williams contacted the school and registered for Dr. Murnane's Law & Governance class. When Murnane welcomed her back in a personal email, he asked about her health. She told him about her desperate need for a kidney donor.
He asked if they could set up a call and she agreed to speak to him.
"Chazley, do you have a donor yet?" Murnane asked.
"No, and things aren't looking good," Williams replied.
Murnane then told her that he was lined up to be a donor for a little boy in need of a kidney, but he had an epiphany.
"Since several donors have been confirmed as matches for that little boy. Why don't I let another donor meet his need and give my kidney to you instead," he said.
Williams was overwhelmed by what she was hearing.
"Until this phone call, I was one of many online students to Professor Murnane. We hadn't even met in person," she said.
Just a week later, Murnane called her again and said, "I'm a match, and everything is a go. The transplant coordinator will soon call you to schedule your final labs and set the date for the surgery."
"I was experiencing too many emotions to put into words," Williams remembered. "This was a life-changing surgery with risks that I had to weigh in just seconds. I mean, my professor was fully willing to save my life, and we've never even met face-to-face. I was floored."
On the night of Nov. 9, 2020, the night before the transplant, Williams and Murnane finally met in person.
She remembered being incredibly nervous as they sat down to dinner with their spouses in the food court of the hospital.
"I mean, I am meeting someone's wife and saying, 'Hi! I am the person who is taking your husband's kidney. Nice to finally meet you,'" Williams said.
She recalled her operation took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was extraordinary in itself. Her surgery was a success.
When she awoke after the procedure, she wondered if it all had been just a dream.
"Did this really happen?" the grad student asked herself. "My Lord! This actually happened. I have a new, healthy kidney. I am going to live—and not die!"
Brandon and Chazley Williams. (Photo credit: Chazley Williams/Regent University)
In the spring of 2021, Williams resumed her Regent coursework and in May of 2022, she graduated with a master's degree in education with a concentration in student affairs.
"My Regent decision changed my life. Yes! I earned a master's degree, but on top of all that, my professor gave me a healthy kidney—he gave me life. Who else has that story? Today, I am alive, and without Regent, that wouldn't be the case. I am forever grateful," she said.
Murnane said, "Everyone should consider being an organ donor."
"I'd do it again if I had a kidney to spare. The wife of my colleague, Dr. Michael Kirkland, needs a kidney—right now—and you can help. There is nothing like being used by God in someone's answer to prayer. Nothing!" he said.
If you are interested in being tested as a potential transplant donor, please contact Dr. Michael Kirkland directly at email@example.com and he will connect you with their transplant donor coordinators.
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