Most people go the traditional route to celebrate Mother’s Day: flowers, perfume, chocolates, brunch.
But on Sunday, Paul Morrison of Pembroke Pines will be celebrating the priceless gift he gave his mom Gloria: life.
On April 30, Morrison, 21, underwent surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital to donate his left kidney to his mother, who had been diagnosed with acute kidney disease and hypertension in 2001. Her condition worsened in 2010, forcing her to be connected to dialysis machines while she was put on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.
The wait was estimated to be three years. But her family wasn’t willing to sit around that long.
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Her husband Fitzroy and her oldest son Nicholas were tested to see if they made a suitable match. They didn’t.
But Gloria’s baby boy Paul, then 18 years old, turned out to be a perfect genetic fit and donor.
He was willing to proceed, but his mother wasn’t so sure.
“I felt that he was too young at the time,” Gloria, 50, said during a news conference this week at Jackson’s Ryder Trauma Center. “I didn’t know if he was ready to make that kind of decision back then. I didn’t want to put pressure on him and make him feel like it was something he had to do. So I decided to wait.”
In April, as Paul neared his 21st birthday, he and the rest of the family decided to proceed.
“I was pretty nervous at first, but she’s my Mom, and I would do anything for her,” said Paul, who works for UPS to help pay for his graphic design studies at Broward College. “I’m feeling good right now, and I know my mom is feeling good right now. She had to deal with carrying me in her stomach for nine months, so it was great to be able to give back to her. If I had to do it again right now, I would.”
Fitzroy Morrison, who has been married to Gloria for 25 years, vividly remembers the day of the surgery.
“It was nerve-racking,” he said. “You just have to wait and wait for someone to come by and tell you how things are going. When the doctor came by a little after four o’clock and told me my wife and son were in recovery, I was really happy. He was doped up and knocked out, but she was already up and alert, like she hadn’t even had surgery. You could already see the difference in her complexion and her face. It was so bright.”
Dr. Giselle Guerra, medical director of the Living Kidney Program at the Miami Transplant Institute at the University of Miami and Jackson, oversaw the procedure. She said that Gloria’s ability to find a living donor extended her life by at least five or 10 years.
“The survival [prognosis] of the kidney is much longer if it comes from someone who is living vs. the deceased,” Guerra said. “Overall, they tend to recover very quickly and require less amino-suppressive agents. It’s a win-win situation, because the waiting time of the list of people waiting for a donor also gets shorter.”
Just a week after surgery, Gloria says she already has more energy and can taste food better.
Most importantly, she’s looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with her family, away from needles and doctors.
“I’m looking forward to a good quality life, enjoying myself and my children, and hopefully their children and the great-grands,” she said. I want to live as long of a life as I can. I could not ask for anything else.”
As for Paul, Gloria turned to look at him, beaming, and said “He is my hero.”