A perfect match to spread a life saving message about organ donation
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A couple of New Orleans natives took decades of friendship to a whole new life-saving level.
They ended up being the perfect match to spread an important message.
When Sue Allen and Antonio Miller met at church in the 1980′s, they had no idea how intertwined their lives would become.
Antonio recalls, “Every time there was something going on we were always together, no matter what, we were always together.”
When Sue was diagnosed with renal failure in 2003 and put on home dialysis, she says depression set in. Her mom had died, her husband was also sick then she received the news.
“They had come to the decision that I was eligible to receive a transplant,” says Sue. “I was really excited about that but I had no one in my family who could give me a kidney, because I have a very small family and they either have high blood pressure or diabetes.”
Her doctors put her on the transplant list.
“There is a huge need for transplants in the U.S. and in the state of Louisiana,” says Lana Stevens with the Louisiana Organ Procurement agency or LOPA. She says its no surprise Sue’s doctors told her she could die waiting for a kidney.
“Nationally that waiting list number is close to 107,000 patients who are waiting for some type of life saving organ transplant. More than 90,000 of them are waiting for kidneys,” Stevens says.
Antonio wasn’t willing to chance it.
“Honestly I was just thinking this cannot happen. If something can be done, this can not happen,” says Antonio.
After 20 years of friendship, he didn’t blink an eye.
Sue remembers the night well.
“Antonio rang my doorbell one night and I was not surprised because he would always come by to check on us,” she says. “He noticed that I seemed very upset and unusually depressed that night and he asked me what was the problem so I told him exactly what the coordinator said. And he said ‘I’ll give you a kidney’, just like that.”
“Right, I thought it was just one, I can make do with the rest, so I said I’ll give you a kidney. She said yeah right. I said seriously I will give you a kidney,” Antonio insisted.
Sue did hesitate.
“I was like yeah right and I didn’t believe it and didn’t think very much about it,” says Sue. “I just thought he was teasing.”
She actually ignored his offer but Antonio got tested anyway. The call came quickly from the transplant coordinator.
“Within a few days, she called with the results and said not only were we a match, we were a double match and that’s very unusual for non related people,” Antonio says.
In her experience with LOPA, Stevens says that was a sign it was meant to be.
Antonio recalls the phone conversation with the transplant coordinator. “She asked, are y’all related? I said no we aren’t related. She said are you sure? I said I’m absolutely sure. Positive. She said are you sure?” Antonio replied, “Understand me well, we are not related.”
March 24th, 2003 the transplant took place, two weeks after Sue’s husband passed away. It was a success and life was getting back to normal.
Then came Hurricane Katrina.
Still leaning on one another, Sue and Antonio evacuated together to Baton Rouge.
“One day we were talking and doing stuff, packing and unpacking stuff and Antonio said you know we always get thrown together every time there is trouble. We’re always standing for one another. He said we ought to just get married,” Sue recalls. “I didn’t know if he was really serious. I thought this was his serious look but I still just don’t know. But he made it very plain that he wanted us to become husband and wife.”
Asked how she couldn’t take him seriously, Sue replied, “Yes I know. People tease us about that all the time because they say oh, he followed his kidney.”
“I think it was just kind of like the perfect storm of everything that brought them together,” says Stevens. “I just love that.”
“At first she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to accept, and I’m saying to myself, you know what I just gave you a kidney, so somebody’s gonna accept something,” says Antonio.
The two tied the knot on March 25th, 2006.
Sue and Antonio Miller have since been advocates for deceased or living organ donations to anyone who will listen.
“I think when people know someone touched by it personally, it helps to alleviate fears and dispel myths and misconceptions that are out there unfortunately,” Stevens says.
For Antonio, it was an act of love.
“Because what greater love than you have to give of yourself than organ or tissue that someone will have a chance to live to have an enhancement in their life. That is so important,” Antonio says.
As the Millers recently celebrated their transplant and wedding anniversary all in the month of March, there’s no doubt they are a match made in heaven.
“I tell people I had a double fortune because I got the kidney and the young man,” says Sue with a smile.
LOPA only facilitates deceased organ donations and says unfortunately not everyone will receive that opportunity because there just aren’t enough, which is why living donors are needed.
For more information on becoming a living donor in Louisiana, visit https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/members/member-directory/.
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