NIU student donates kidney to former colleague

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Courtesy of Amanda McGovern

Amanda McGovern, a junior major in Communication Disorders, stands in front of a NIU sign wearing a shirt that says “Kidneys are made to be shared.”

DeKALB – After years of battling kidney disease, Aurora’s Nicole Mayweather posted on Facebook in September 2020 in hopes of finding a kidney donor who could save her life.

Eight months later, Mayweather received a message in May from a former colleague, Amanda McGovern, a junior major in communication disorders. McGovern met Mayweather seven years ago when they both worked at a Chase bank at 2500 Westfield Drive in Elgin. McGovern left the bank after a year on the job but has remained friends with Mayweather on Facebook.

Mayweather said she started having kidney problems when she was pregnant with her son, who is now seven.

“When I had my son Kai while I was pregnant with him, my kidneys stopped working,” Mayweather said. “I went to see a nephrologist and he told me my kidneys were in stage four with kidney failure.”

Mayweather said she was eligible for a kidney transplant evaluation after her diagnosis in 2014. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, she was evaluated with a CT scan, echocardiogram, and stress test. Mayweather was then placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing’s list for diseased kidneys.

“They put you on the UNOS list, and you typically expect on that list for a diseased kidney for five to six years in the state of Illinois,” Mayweather said.

In September 2020, Mayweather posted on Facebook that she needed a kidney, where she attempted to call on her friends and family to get a donor. Mayweather’s Facebook post allowed anyone to take a live donor screening test.

“I knew she had kidney problems, but this was the first time she was talking about it on Facebook,” McGovern said. “She was going to be on a donor list and said a living donor is always the best.”

Mayweather said it’s best to have a living donor because you can do the transplant at your own pace and the donated kidney is more likely to function properly.

“Amanda said she did it,” Mayweather said. “I didn’t try to be hopeful because I thought ‘that can’t really be true. “”

Mayweather was shocked when the hospital called McGovern for further evaluation, but said she always tries to remain neutral and indifferent.

McGovern said the process didn’t feel real to him, as around 90% of potential donors are turned down because donor compatibility is hard to match. McGovern underwent a series of tests in January and she chose to schedule the operation in May due to the wait times at the hospital and therefore it would not interfere with the school. Once the surgery was scheduled, that’s when she started to feel real.

The transplant was scheduled for 6 a.m. on May 21 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. McGovern and Mayweather stayed at a nearby hotel the night before the operation. McGovern was released the day after the transplant and Mayweather was released a few days later.

McGovern is now fully recovered from the operation. The only restriction she has is that she cannot take a lot of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and Aleve.

Mayweather is also fully recovered and needs to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. Mayweather said there are currently no signs of rejection and her kidney is working very well.

Mayweather said her children were very happy that she had the surgery and that she had the added support of her aunt and father.

“I think it was a very selfless thing for her to do,” McGovern’s aunt Louann Engler said.

A lot of people have asked McGovern for donating his kidney, but, she said, “it’s not for me to say ‘oh you deserve it’ like ‘you’re so close to me’ or like ‘You’re a pretty good person’, to me it was like, well, she’s just, ‘she’s worth living longer.’ “

McGovern and Mayweather don’t see each other often, but they each bought a shirt that says “Friends For Life”.

Amanda McGovern (left) and Nicole Mayweather wear their matching shirts. (Courtesy of Amanda McGovern)

“It was so amazing and so special, and I can’t thank her enough,” said Mayweather.


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