UVa-Wise sophomore gives gift of life
Many people will give and receive special gifts this holiday season, but Destiny Baker, a sophomore at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, gave a Tennessee resident a second change at life by donating a kidney.
The Big Stone Gap resident has always had a generous spirit, but donating a kidney was not in her original plan when she decided to register as a potential bone marrow donor. Baker, the mother of two young children, has a rare blood type and thought signing up as a bone marrow donor would be a good way to help others. Instead, she got a call about donating a kidney.
“It never felt like a big deal,” the nursing major said. “I would do it again if I had to do it over again.”
Her journey as a kidney donor is unique in many ways. Baker has always wanted to get involved with missionary work since she learned of an organization called Mercy Ships, a group that does missionary work in Haiti and Africa. In fact, her desire to help those in need is what motivated her to go to college as a non-traditional student. She chose nursing because she knew the medical field would give her the skills to help others.
“I signed up on matchingdonors.com and that is how I got on the donor list,” she said.
The man she selected to receive her kidney was one of many who were a match. Baker chose the Elizabethton resident because he lived closer to her home. She knew she would only have to travel to Knoxville for the procedure, and that trip sounded reasonable. Baker is a planner, and she thought the entire process out to the last detail.
“We scheduled the surgery the Friday before fall break,” she said. “I had to miss all classes on Friday, but I knew it would give me time to recover before going back to class.”
Baker informed her professors at the beginning of the semester that she would be taking a day off for surgery before the fall break. Being modest about her generosity, Baker only shared the details with a few of them.
“They all said it was fine, and that gave me a week to rest and get over the soreness without having to do a lot,” she said. “The day after I came back from break, I had to take my nursing entrance exam and I had an evening class.”
Baker had some initial struggles when she returned to campus. She could not carry a regular backpack to class. She used a wheeled backpack for six weeks.
“I had to find some new ways to get to class, but it was never a problem,” she said. “I was fine. I’d just take some Benadryl and Tylenol and get right back at it.”
When asked about her first meeting with the Elizabethton man and his family, Baker said she was nervous at first.
“I thought it would be awkward, but it turned out to be very easy,” she said. “We would always laugh when we were together, and it has never felt strange. It is like we’ve all been friends forever.”
Baker shrugs off any talk about her bravery or generosity.
“It just made sense for me to do this to save someone’s life,” she said. “It seemed the right thing to do.”
Regret only entered her mind once, and that was when it seemed the transplant was not going to be successful. Baker was relieved when she learned that the procedure was a total success.
“It never felt like a sacrifice to me,” she said.