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Terry Lee, right, donated a kidney to his girlfriend, Latrisha Beckwith. The surgery was performed at Vanderbilt on Valentine’s Day. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Couple finds they’re a perfect match in more ways than one

BY: JESSICA PASLEY

2/16/2012 - While many couples spend countless hours contemplating how to surprise each other for Valentine’s Day, one Chicago man’s gift to his girlfriend is truly priceless.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Terry Lee gave his girlfriend of two years, Latrisha Beckwith, one of his kidneys during an early-morning surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The decision to do this was simple,” said Lee. “I care a lot about Trish and I want her to be a part of my life. But I have to give her all the credit for the date. She wanted that day and that’s the way it worked out.”
Much like their entire relationship.

The pair’s paths crossed in January 2010 at a social event in Chicago. She was new to the city. He was out with some friends. What happened from there is a textbook love story.

“We just hit it off very quickly,” smiled Beckwith. “We were talking about everything and we had so much in common. It just went from there.

“When people ask me about it, I feel it was meant to be or meant for us to cross paths,” she said. “I was not looking for him and he was not looking for me.”

Terry Lee, left, and Latrisha Beckwith talk with surgical team members Douglas Hale, M.D., and Michael Vella, M.D., during a pre-transplant consultation. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Terry Lee, left, and Latrisha Beckwith talk with surgical team members Douglas Hale, M.D., and Michael Vella, M.D., during a pre-transplant consultation. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Five months after meeting, Beckwith was hospitalized with complaints of chest pains and high blood pressure. She had end-stage kidney failure caused by Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. It is a disease of flares and remissions that can range from mild to life-threatening. Estimates are that 1.5 million people in the U.S. have the disease.

Beckwith immediately began dialysis. She spent a month in the hospital. And Lee was right by her side.

“I guess that was when I knew,” she said. “Before then, I was unsure about whether he was the one. It was all moving so fast, but that sealed it for me – the fact that he was there with me every single day.

“For me, that was very telling, so I started taking him a little more seriously.”

And it’s a good thing she did.

Not only was Lee proving to be Beckwith’s romantic match, he would also become a match for a kidney as well.

Although Lee volunteered to be tested, Beckwith had already resigned herself to being placed on the waiting list. She was told it could take anywhere between three-five years before a kidney could become available.

Lee gives Beckwith a kiss before heading to the OR for the Valentines Day transplant surgery. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Lee gives Beckwith a kiss before heading to the OR for the Valentines Day transplant surgery. (photo by Anne Rayner)

That was not an option for Lee.

“I wanted her to have her life back,” he said. “If I could help her do that, then I wanted to. I knew I was O positive and that I have a universal blood type. That was really the first step to clear. I moved forward with the testing and found that out that I was a four out of six match.”

While visiting her mother in Alabama, the couple began the transplant testing process at Vanderbilt. Once she visited the Medical Center, Beckwith knew it was the place she wanted to be for her life-saving surgery.

“I felt so comfortable at Vanderbilt,” she said. “Everyone was so nice and friendly and I didn’t want to go anywhere else. It also helped that it was closer to my mom.”

For now, Beckwith and Lee are looking forward to their future together.

“We are not a traditional couple,” Beckwith said laughing. “People ask us all the time about marriage, but we like it just the way it is. I don’t need a ring. I’ll have a kidney and that is all I need. I don’t think it gets any better than that!”

Douglas Hale, M.D., performed Lee’s surgery while David Shaffer, M.D., surgical director and chief of the Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program, transplanted the kidney into Beckwith. The couple is doing well following the procedures, according to Shaffer.

©2014 Vanderbilt University Medical Center
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