With a friend in need of a kidney, Flaget Memorial Hospital emergency department nurse Rhonda Wathen, RN, was there. But when Rhonda’s friend was unable to accept her kidney donation due to medical circumstances, Rhonda donated her kidney to a complete stranger in need.
“I had a friend for over 30 years in need of a kidney, so my best friend and I tried to see if we could donate,” Rhonda said. “My friend Bobby also had an issue with his heart, so in those instances they want the kidney and heart to come from the same person to avoid rejection.
“When I was on Bobby’s donation page on Facebook, there was another page for someone who was also in need of a kidney.”
Rhonda submitted her application to match with this stranger since they both were O-negative blood types.
“I was in the mindset to donate a kidney,” Rhonda said. Usually you don’t know who you’re donating to, but I chose him, Jack. If Jack hadn’t matched me, I would have moved on to the next person.”
“When I donate blood, I donate two units at a time if my count is high enough. O-negative people are harder to get organs for because of the risk factors and matching. I knew [Jack] was O-negative based on what he posted on Facebook. I messaged his daughter when the process first started, but she didn’t tell him in case it didn’t work out.”
Rhonda was able to meet Jack before the procedure last year.
“We were able to see each other before the procedure,” Rhonda said. “He was thanking me left and right.”
Rhonda has been a nurse at Flaget Memorial Hospital for 34 years. She said her plan since high school was to stay local at the advice of her dad.
“Almost every shift, someone asks, ‘Who do you know today, Rhonda?’” Rhonda said. “I’ve been here so long. My dad worked at Ford and said, ‘If you don’t have to drive [far for work], then don’t drive.’ Because when you work a 12-hour shift, then you add an hour there and an hour back, so I was working at McDonalds as a high school senior when I was accepted to the nursing program at Elizabethtown [community college]. I lived at home, graduated nursing school when I was 19, I wanted to stay small.”
In her free time, Rhonda lives on a mini farm with her family in Nelson County. She has two children, one in high school and another in graduate school.