August 19, 2010

Organ Donation Forever Links ‘Two Sisters in Christ’

Two sisters in Christ - while Miriam Rogers Nichols is not related to the late LaMayra Brown, she will always be connected to the former Scotland County Treasurer thanks to the gift of life she bestowed on the former Gorin resident when she so abruptly departed this world.

Miriam returned to the Gorin Christian Church on Sunday for the first time since receiving a life-saving liver transplant. Without the surgery, she never would have been able to address the congregation on Sunday to offer her testimonial.

She was introduced to the gathering by pastor Jim Brown, LaMayra’s husband who praised the good that has come in his time of personal loss. “God has allowed something beautiful to come out of something that has been so hard,” he said.

It was the first time Miriam had seen Pastor Brown since she had been blessed with the liver transplant six months ago.

She spoke to the gathering, stating “God is working through me to give him all of the glory.”

Miriam started the tale, with her connection to the community. She moved with her parents from Illinois to Gorin when she was one year old. Her connection to the church started soon after, as her parents, Carol and the late Homer Rogers received an invitation to attend from then mail-carrier, the late Weldon Tague. Miriam and her siblings, Adrian and Vicki, attended every Sunday. She talked about memories of her father playing his trumpet and performing musical selections at the church, including his favorite song “When the Saints Come Marching In”.

That was a habit she stuck with, even after graduating from high school, getting married and moving to the Columbia area.

“When I returned to visit my parents, I always enjoyed coming to hear pastor Jim Campbell preach the gospel,” she said. “I grew in the Lord during this period of my life, and he, Kathy and the church were so faithful to pray for me continuously.”

Jim Campbell, LaMayra’s brother, was the pastor at the Gorin Christian Church for 25 years before taking a position with a Kahoka church this year.

Miriam said she needed lots of prayers, because in 2000 she was diagnosed with liver disease, the same year she lost her husband.

When she remarried, her husband Dave asked if she was ready for the journey, she joked that she was the one that should have asked him, because of the health-related rollercoaster she would ride over the next decade.

By 2009, the doctors at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, informed Miriam she was in stage four of the liver disease, eliminating any additional treatments options, with her last hope being a transplant.

“My life pretty much went on hold that year, as I was not able to get out much and seldom able to attend church,” she said.

That meant the church had to come to her, and she praised Jim Campbell for regularly making the trip from Gorin to the Jefferson City area to visit and pray with her.

Meanwhile her condition continued to deteriorate at a much quicker pace than the transplant list was moving. Miriam was one of 7,000 people on the waiting list for a liver transplant, a process that was expected to last four or five years.

By the end of 2009, Miriam was relegated to lengthy hospital stays. She was discharged on Christmas Day to go home and enjoy the holiday with her family and a visit from her mother, only to return to the hospital the following day.

Two months later, the bad news continued, as Carol Rogers called to inform her daughter that long-time family friend LaMayra Brown had suffered a massive stroke, and her prognosis was not good.

“The next morning, Sunday, at 7:40 a.m., Jim Campbell called me,” Miriam recalled. “He told me that we had lost LaMayra. And then he asked me for the phone number for my liver specialist. He was going to find out if we were a match.”

At 7:30 p.m. that evening, the phone rang again, and it was the familiar voice of Jim Campbell on the other end of the line. Miriam and LaMayra were indeed a match.

“It was the longest 12 hours in our family’s life,” Miriam said.

But the task was not complete. Campbell worked the phone lines with the doctors, the specialists, the transplant coordinator and the organ harvester to insure the miracle would come to fruition.

“It is my understanding that the organ harvester doesn’t normally allow the family to designate the recipient, but apparently Jim was pretty persistent,”’ she said.

Shortly after Campbell’s call, Miriam’s doctor phoned to tell them they needed to get to the hospital as quick as possible.

“It was pouring down rain outside, but in less than 20 minutes we were on the road, with a two-hour drive ahead of us,” she recalled.

At the same time, LaMayra’s liver was en route from Quincy, IL to St. Louis via helicopter. The gift of life was rushed to the hospital by security personnel, and the surgery began.

The chief surgeon emerged from the process by all accounts extremely prematurely. He found the family and eased their concerns.

“I have never had a transplant go this smoothly,” the doctor said to the family. He explained a normal liver transplant takes 8 to 10 hours, but this surgery lasted only four hours.

The recovery has gone smoothly as well, leading Miriam to tell the gathering at the church on Sunday that she has never felt this good in her life. She attributed her new found health to her friend’s gift.

“A lot of people don’t know, but LaMayra sang at my wedding in 1972,” Miriam said. “God had this all planned out. LaMayra and dad are in heaven, and he’s playing his trumpet while she sings As the Saints Come Marching in.”

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