A little over one year ago, a Florida woman woke up in the recovery room at Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis. She’d just had her kidney removed. A team quickly transported it across the Mississippi River, to Children’s Hospital. A team of surgeons had already prepped 2 year old Arianna Moore, and when the precious organ arrived, they transplanted it into the toddler. Today, that little girl is 3 years old, and healthier than she has ever been in her short life, thanks to a total stranger, Christy Hart Harding of Jacksonville, Florida.
I first heard about this incredible story in May of 2014. I was watching the local news on TV in Minneapolis, and the reporter said a woman from Florida had heard about a Pine River, Minnesota girl’s need for a kidney on Facebook. She had gotten all the tests, was a perfect match, and was flying up to Minneapolis for the operation. I was intrigued. How does someone make that decision, to be tested to donate a kidney to a stranger? What kind of person does that? I was determined to meet this woman, and ask if I could write about her.
The deadline for applying for the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant was early July. I wanted to write a song about this courageous, compassionate woman! I included her in my “artist narrative,” saying she was one of the real-life, everyday people that I planned to contact as a subject for one of my twelve songs. I had already contacted some of my “subjects” before I included their names in my grant proposal. But I didn’t contact Christy until November 2014. I felt I should give her time to recover from surgery, and I also wanted to follow the little girl’s progress and see how she was doing
When I did contact Christy, via Facebook, she was very welcoming, and said she’d love to be part of my project. She emailed me some basic information about her story, and I read everything I could find about her and Arianna on-line. Curtis and I were doing a concert tour in Florida this past spring, so I did an interview with Christy at a Panera Bakery in Jacksonville early on the morning of April 25. (Continue reading below photo)
I turned on the Zoom digital recorder, and Curtis was ready with the camera. Christy is in her 30s, a beaming, friendly, outgoing person. The very beginning of her story was seeing the Facebook post that announced Arianna desperately needed a kidney. You can see photos and news about the little girl now, on the very same Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ALL4MOORE?fref=ts The post wasn’t sent specifically to her. It was in her Newsfeed, and she noticed it as she scrolled through all the postings, sitting at her kitchen table in the fall of 2014.
The amazing thing about this is, Christy told me she normally quickly skimmed through posts about sick kids or animals, because they were just too sad. “Why did you stop and read this one?” I asked. “It had to be an angel, or God whispering in my ear. I was meant to be her donor,” was her answer. The site said, “You could be my hero. Is your blood type O?” Christy’s blood IS type O.
Arianna was 2 years old at that time. Both of her kidneys had failed when she was just 7 weeks old, and she had been on dialysis ever since. She has a twin sister, who luckily did not have the rare genetic problem that had destroyed Arianna’s kidneys. I asked Christy if she thought it over for awhile. She said, “No, I picked up the phone right away and called the phone number, to see if it was for real, to make sure it wasn’t a hoax.” It was for real. The number connected her to a hospital in Minneapolis.
Next she called her husband at work and said she wanted to donate a kidney to a little girl they’d never met before. Yes, he was surprised! But they both talked about their own 2 year old daughter Sarah, and how they would search the whole world for someone to help her if she was in Arianna’s situation. The endless tests were begun, first in Jacksonville. Later she flew to Minneapolis for final tests, never contacting Arianna’s family. She didn’t want to give them any false hope until she knew for sure.
On April 21, 2014, the call came from the Minneapolis transplant team. “You are a perfect match!” Christy watched Arianna’s Facebook page, and as soon as it announced that a donor had been found, that was her cue. She messaged Arianna’s mom, and introduced herself. In an interview with a news station, Ashley, the mom said, “I could not find words.”
Christy and her mom flew up to the Twin Cities in early May, 2014 and met Arianna and her family for the first time. Media was everywhere, asking for interviews. Television, newspapers swarmed everywhere. But the little girl spiked a fever the night before the surgery and it was canceled.
In June, 2014 Christy and her mom returned, and this time the surgery was completed as planned. After about 3 hours of surgery, Christy woke up in the recovery room, and remembers a man there, trying to get her pain under control. I asked her what her very first thought was. Without hesitation she replied, “Is Arianna OK?” It was her mom’s “assignment” to keep in contact with Arianna’s mom, and as soon as Christy was taken back to her room, she found out the operation was a complete success, and the kidney was actually kind of “over achieving.” Christy said, “Yeah, that would be my kidney!”
I had to ask her, “Weren’t you worried about having major surgery?”
She answered, “You know the funny thing is, the surgery never scared me. The parts that scared me were my family - being away from them,and then when I came home, not being able to pick my daughter Sarah up for 6 weeks. I’m very practical, and in my mind, you know you have the chance that you might not make it back. And I thought, well I’ll be OK with that, because I won’t be here to suffer through it. My biggest worry was for my family. That was the biggest weight.”
After a few days, Christy returned to Florida, and after a few weeks was able to return to her job full-time. But she wasn’t done yet! She started a fundraising campaign, and raised enough money to bring Arianna, her parents, and her two brothers and sister down to Florida for a vacation at Disney World in the spring of 2015. Look in the photo gallery on her Facebook page to see photos with Tinker Bell and more! https://www.facebook.com/ALL4MOORE?fref=ts
As we closed out the interview, I asked her, “Why? Why donate a kidney to a total stranger?” Her answer was “When there’s good to be done, you have to do it.... don’t just talk about it.”
That seems to be Christy’s motto in life, and one that I personally am inspired to try to live up to! The name of the song I’ve written about Christy’s story is “When There’s Good to Be Done.”