NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A good neighbor may pick up your mail or even let you have a cup of sugar. But Nancy Dozier has taken the word “neighbor” a step further. Justin James said she’s the kind of neighbor who has always been nice to have around.
“You know, you wave, and if you’re leaving out of town you’re like,'Hey can you watch the house?”' Justin said.
Justin’s mother, Tysha Martin, said Nanci’s the kind of neighbor that looks out for you in good times and bad. Nanci Dozier remembers one bad night in particular.
“I looked outside and there was an ambulance in front of their house,” Nanci said.
Justin had a seizure and was brought to the emergency room.
“That was the first time I knew he was sick,” Nanci said.
At age 28, Justin is on dialysis. His kidneys failed, and for the past seven years he’s undergone three-hour treatments three times a week.
"It’s hell, Justin said. “Hell on wheels!”
Growing up, Justin was never sick. The Salmen High grad was always on the go. He had moved to Baton Rouge to teach dance. On a weekend visit back to LaPlace in 2011, his mom sensed something was wrong.
“He came in and I noticed his face was puffy. He was puffy and wasn’t feeling good. I told his dad, ‘I’m taking him to the hospital,’” Tysha said.
At the hospital, she was hit with something unbelievable.
“I called my husband and said, ‘Harold, Justin has kidney failure.’”
High blood that pressure his parents never knew about, coupled with a family history of kidney disease, sealed his fate.
“I begged them to help him. He could have one of mine. They told me no,” Tysha said.
His mother had the wrong blood type, and his dad and sister couldn’t donate either. Justin faced the rest of his life on dialysis unless he got a kidney. He plunged into depression, and the dancer turned to painting to get him through the pain. Some of his work featured kidneys.
"I wanted to take my experiences and add an abstract form to them,"Justin said
Nanci said if Tysha ever called her to come over and check on Justin, she would. She knew Justin was ill, but didn’t know he was on dialysis.
Last April, she found out why Justin was always sick.
“I finally asked what’s wrong with him,” Nanci said. “She told me he needs an O-Positive kidney, and I said, ‘I have one of those. I got that!’”
Tysha remembered it was as simple as that - like she was offering Justin a piece of gum.
Justin said it was something nice to hear, but nobody ever came through. The family went on with their lives, until one day, Justin got a chance for a kidney.
"I got the phone call that I was second in line for a kidney," he said.
They rushed him to Tulane Medical Center, but it didn’t go as planned. They waited seven hours to find out Justin would not get that kidney. Instead, the person in front of him was a perfect match.
Nanci had been messaging Tysha for two weeks to get the information about donating her kidney to Justin. She was serious.
“I told Justin, I said, ‘Son, I know that just happened, but this just happened,’" Tysha said. "I told him Nanci has been messaging me all this time. She wants to be tested.”
Nancy was a match. She documented her journey on Facebook and videotaped the walk across the street to tell her unsuspecting neighbor, Justin, the good news.
“I go to answer the door and I see Nanci, her children, her parents - everybody is there, and I read her shirt,” Justin said.
The shirt said, “It’s official. You can have my Kidney.”
“I could not believe that this is for real right now. This lady is going to give me her kidney!” Justin said, tearing up.
“I have two, he needs one. There are 95,000 people who need kidneys. I can give my one to somebody,” Nanci said.
Their surgery date was all set, but there was one final test that solidified their bond. Justin's name came up on the list for another kidney. He turned it down.
“I thought about it and said, what’s another month? I can wait. Go bless somebody else with this kidney,” Justin said.
“He said, ‘No thank you! I have one.’ Who does that? That blows my mind!” Nanci said. “In the grand scheme of things, he saved two people - himself and somebody else. He knows he’s getting a kidney November 28th, so the person who was behind him in line - he completely changed their life.”
Neighbors, acquaintances, and now - forever family.
"I'm part of her now, and she's a part of me," Justin said.
“He deserves to be here, happy and healthy,” Nanci said. “Not just for Justin because he lives across the street. It’s for anybody,” Nanci said with a smile.