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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Sponsored by Donate Life Daughter and Mother’s Organ Donation Story Reminds That Life is the Most Precious Gift

While some people scurry to gather presents to beat the Christmas shopping deadline, Danette Ragin is a Baltimorean who knows what it feels like to receive a gift that money cannot buy. She has been an organ donor for over 40 years. Ironically, she once found herself in need of a kidney. Danisha “Angel” Whitaker, who is Ragin’s own daughter, became her living kidney donor.

“I was able to give the gift of life to the very person who gave me life,” Whitaker wrote in a reflection about the unique experience.

Her mother’s kidney transplant journey began when Whitaker was a high school sophomore. Ragin received her first kidney transplant in 2008. Her first kidney donor experienced heart complications. Ragin was first given the gift of a kidney that functioned strongly until 2016.

“Around my seventh year, I started getting this little feeling within myself that something was going to happen with this kidney, because I started losing weight again,” Ragin said, recalling the timeline of events.

She returned to the transplant doctor who monitors her kidney function. He informed her that when the kidney function dropped below 20%, Ragin would need to be placed back on the transplant list, possibly restart hemodialysis, but he also suggested that she consider the option of finding a living donor.

Surprisingly, her daughters, Whitaker and her sister, Ebboni Ruley-Freeman, and their godbrother, Tony Price all were donor matches.

Danette Ragin, a two-time organ kidney recipient
and organ donor

The Baltimorean who dealt with end stage renal disease had already endured a medical roller coaster ride that commenced with lengthy episodes of migraine headaches and extreme weight loss.

 “Although I had those headaches, I didn’t put two and two together as far as losing the weight, because I thought I was bringing sexy back, but I was getting sicker by the minute,” Ragin said.

She was officially diagnosed with end stage renal disease around 2002. Her primary care physician and nephrologist, which is a kidney specialist, pinpointed that protein was spilling in her urine. This was the cause of her migraine headaches.

Ragin also had constant high blood pressure that would not come down. The health problem created concern. Ragin needed to be monitored by a nephrologist. She had worked as a phlebotomist, and at one point, in the dialysis field. Ragin experienced a range of emotions from anger and denial to acceptance that she was ill.

“I was juggling my family, my church life, my social life, my work life. I was doing it, so I thought I was Superwoman, but Superwoman had met her kryptonite,” Ragin said, mentioning that her stamina declined.

Ragin began peritoneal dialysis in December of 2007. A catheter was placed in her stomach to enable her to do home dialysis. The option was short-lived. After informing her nephrologist that she experienced constant itching on her skin, he replied that hemodialysis was needed. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, hemodialysis is when blood is filtered through an external machine in a clinic setting.

“So they started me with hemodialysis mid-March of 2008. I stayed on that until obviously my first kidney in June of 2008,” Ragin said.

The chain of events led to the second phase of the journey in June of 2016 when Ragin revealed that she needed a second kidney transplant. At that time, Whitaker was too young to consider donating a kidney to her mother the first time. The second time around, Whitaker was given a new opportunity to give the gift of life by getting tested and finding out that she was a match to give her mother a kidney. After the successful surgery, Whitaker also became even more of an advocate for organ and tissue donation. She also considers herself to be an honorary Donate Life ambassador.

“I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to give my mom an extended warranty through the gift of life. Everyone calls me a hero, but the truth is, my mom has always been my hero; and I would do it all over again if I could,” she also wrote.

Today, Ragin finds satisfaction volunteering for the Living Legacy Foundation and bringing awareness to organ eye and tissue donation. The nonprofit saves and enhances lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation. Donate Life Maryland handles registrations of the state’s organ, eye and tissue donors.

Additionally, help Ragin received through organ donation inspired three of her family members to sign up to become donors before they passed away. She educates others about organ, eye, and tissue donation, while dispelling myths about donation, especially in the African American community.

“I am a two-time organ kidney recipient, and I am also an organ donor,” Ragin said.

Please visit Donate Life Maryland via https://www.donatelifemaryland.org/ to learn more about organ donation.

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