Young organ donor enables others to live ‘normal’
“She made me normal.” Danny allen, recipient of one of Cristine Hadley’s kidneys
In life, Cristine Hadley, a hazel-eyed, vibrant 21-year-old, loved children, kittens and puppies and was much loved by her younger siblings and cousins.
In death, Hadley, who had designated herself as an organ donor on her driver’s license, saved the lives of six people.
“She accomplished a lot, in death, that some people never accomplish” in their lifetimes, her mother, Monica Chambless, said.
Four days before Christmas 2010, Hadley was struck by a car as she walked alongside a road with one of her brothers in Ascension Parish.
She was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and later died of head injuries.
Six people received lifesaving organs in the wake of the tragedy.
For Chambless, the organ donations her daughter provided are a link between herself and her daughter. She’s very proud of her daughter.
“If you took the most sparkliest, shiniest glitter and fairy dust and put it in a jar and shook it up and threw it in the air,” that would be a good representation of Hadley’s personality, said Chambless, who also has two sons.
“I think they needed some of that glitter, that they needed to accomplish something,” she said of the people whose health was restored through Hadley’s gift of organ donation.
Named after her grandfather, Hadley’s full name was Tommie Cristine Leigh Hadley.
On July 18, Chambless, who lives in Alabama and travels regularly to this area to be with family, met for the first time the man who received her daughter’s lungs.
Leo Faherty, of Florida, wore a medical mask, when he visited with Chambless at OLOL, which he said he does most times when he’s out in public.
“It’s the only organ exposed to the environment,” he said of lungs.
Faherty, 67, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis before the transplant, is doing well.
“It’s been better than I even thought,” he said.
Six months after the surgery, he and his wife traveled out west and he was breathing easier on mountain trails than his wife, he said.
“She said I had young lungs,” he said, and he does.
Faherty shares another bond with Chambless. He, too, lost a child, a son, who died at the age of 14 in 1985 and was an organ donor.
Chambless had earlier met Danny Allen, 57, of Baton Rouge, who received one of her daughter’s kidneys.
His new health seems a miracle to him, Allen said. Some two years before the transplant, Allen, who then suffered from high blood pressure, had gone into renal failure and had almost died. He had been on dialysis since then.
“I got the call at 1 in the morning” at the dialysis center where he was staying overnight, Allen said, of getting the word that a transplant had become available. “The nurse was smiling.”
After a three-hour kidney transplant operation shortly thereafter, Allen said he was up and walking the following day.
His blood pressure is where it’s supposed to be now.
“She made me normal,” Allen said of Hadley.
“When I see him, I know he doesn’t have to do dialysis anymore because of my child,” Chambless said of Allen.
Chambless, Allen and Faherty gathered at OLOL on July 18 to meet with hospital staff members, many of whom worked with Chambless’ daughter the night of the accident, as well as staff members of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency.
All three have become active in promoting education and awareness of organ donation.
Chambless thanked the hospital for its efforts to save her daughter and, then, when that wasn’t possible, for calling LOPA.
“I’m not here to be a sad, grieving mother,” Chambless said, although she had to stop to gather her composure several times, “I’m here to promote organ donation.”
“Everyone needs to be an organ donor,” she said.
Other patients received Hadley’s other kidney, her pancreas, liver and heart.
Chambless hopes to one day also meet those organ recipients.
Such meetings, if sought by both parties, are facilitated by LOPA.
“I really, really want to meet them or hear from them,” Chambless said of the other recipients.
“It makes a mom very complete. I don’t just have two (surviving) children,” she said.
She also considers the six organ recipients as family members, she said.
She and Allen and Faherty have discovered some coincidences that are meaningful to them.
Allen’s daughter and Hadley share the same birthday, June 31, and are close in age, he said.
The scar that Faherty has on his back, from the transplant of the lungs, reminds him of angel wings.
He found out from Chambless that Hadley liked tattoos and one of them was a heart with wings, a princess’s crown resting at an angle on the heart.
“I’m so proud of her; I’m so proud for what she’s done,” Chambless said of her daughter.
Cristine Hadley had been planning to go to cosmetology school, said her grandmother, Molly Merritt.
“After she died — she’d use my phone when she’d use up her (phone) minutes — I got calls from three different cosmetology schools” that had accepted her, said Merritt.
Hadley was Merritt’s oldest grandchild and the only granddaughter for many years.
Now there’s a 4-year-old granddaughter who used to love to play dress-up in Hadley’s high heels, Merritt said, and talks about her beautiful cousin “all the time.”
“This hospital was great,” said Merritt of the night her granddaughter died. “A chaplain sat with us all night long.”
The doctor who came to speak to the family of Hadley’s very critical medical condition “was so kind and very compassionate,” said Merritt, who has since gone to work in an office at OLOL.
“Cristine had a little bitty purse. It had her license” and on it, it said “organ donor,” Merritt said.
For information about registering as an organ donor, visit http://www.lopa.org.