NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Laplace woman woman takes the words “love thy neighbor” literally, and she gave her neighbor a gift that he can never repay -- the gift of life.
On Nov. 28 2018, Nanci Dozier’s family surrounded her in a room in Tulane Medical Center.
“They’re skipping school today to be here,” Nanci said.
It was one of the biggest days of her life.
“I’m not worried about the surgery, just the lead up to it,” she said.
The surgery is not for her health. A doctor is removing one of her kidneys to make her neighbor's life better.
“He needs it. Without it he’ll need dialysis three times a week. We could possibly lose him, so if a simple kidney can keep him with us, he can have it,” she said.
Justin James walked onto the same floor and signed his name on a book.
“I’m trying not to start crying,” Justin said. "It’s like, it’s real now, you know?
For seven years Justin has been on dialysis three times every week. His kidneys failed in 2011 after complications from high blood pressure. Nanci Dozier is an acquaintance who has lived across the street from Justin’s family for years. She knew he was ill, but when she found out he needed a kidney Nanci said, “I have two!”
Justin’s mother, Tysha Martin, said it was like Nanci was offering Justin a piece of gum.
"People say that, but nobody ever comes through," Justin said.
Their story went viral on Facebook. More than 200,000 views, 8,000 shares, and almost 1,000 comments.
"That blew my mind a little bit and the number is still rising and people are still sharing," Nanci said as nurses continued to prep her for surgery.
Dr. Parmdsh Anil was all set to remove Nanci’s kidney.
“It is always amazing to me how nice people can be to donate a part of their body to help someone with no benefit for themselves,” Anil said.
Justin said at this point, it’s not just about him anymore.
“I’m happy for myself but for everybody who has been touched by the story,” Justin said. “They get to see it come to fruition. The seven years, everything we’ve gone through.”
But after seven years of pain, waiting, hoping and praying, there was a delay to the surgery -- part comic relief, part cruel joke.
“This morning I had a hand full of Skittles,” Justin said. “It is going to delay my transplant four to six hours. It sucks!”
Nanci was not happy.
“Skittles!” she said, walking to his room with the IV in tow.
But she was ready to freely give him the gift of a new life.
“I’m at peace, Nanci’s at peace, Justin’s at peace,” said Justin’s mom, Tysha Martin. “We prayed yesterday and shared laughs. It’s the culmination of this journey to a new journey."
Vincent Dozier, Nanci’s husband was not worried. He called her a strong woman. Nanci’s mother, Sharon Harrison, said she was proud.
Now, two families who were once only acquaintances are linked forever.
Justin had something he needed to say to Nanci before the surgery. He walked into her room.
"You ready?" Nanci said.
“Yeah, but you are about to make me cry,” Justin said, with tears welling up in his eyes.
Nanci told him not to cry. She said to cry tears of joy.
“Thank you so much,”Justin said. “I know I’ve said this to you before, but I can’t say thank you enough. I can’t give you what you’re giving me. Thank you all for being so supportive cause y’all are family too now,” he said, tears overflowing.
After the surgery, the kidney worked right away. The days that followed in the hospital were like a rebirth for Justin. Now that he’s home he feels like he owes Nanci and the world something.
“It makes me feel pressure to be the best person I can be post-transplant," Justin said. "I want Nanci to know her gift was not in vain. I have a second chance at life.”
Nanci said people have asked Justin what he is going to do for her, and she knows exactly what she wants.
“I want a lot from you. I can’t wait to see where life takes you," Nanci told Justin. “He’s an artist, he’s a dancer, I can’t wait to see where he goes.”
All she asks is that he pays it forward.