Methodist Hospitals introduces the faces of organ donation - April 25, 2017

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Two friends, both mothers, one saves the life of the other

Vicki Walker and Tanisha Basham are two faces of organ and tissue donation. That little red heart on your Indiana drivers license says you are one of the faces, too.

Walker and Basham were the featured speakers at Monday’s flag raising ceremony at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus honoring April as Donate Life Month. Theirs was a story of two women, both mothers, and one helping to save the life of the other. When Walker’s 18-year-old daughter Domonique ‘Nikki’ Smith was put on life support after a 2015 swimming accident, Walker agreed to donate her organs.

Jack Lynch, Director of Community Affairs for the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network was on-call at the hospital and asked Walker if she knew of anyone personally who might be a possible recipient. Walker immediately thought of Basham, a longtime family friend living with heart disease.

Walker said Basham was reluctant to get tested to receive Nikki’s heart, “because she thought of Nikki as her niece and she couldn’t imagine taking Nikki’s life to preserve her own. But she turned out to be a 100% match; even family members don’t match that perfectly.”

Basham has 3 children; her oldest the same age as Nikki.

Nikki’s organs saved 5 lives that day, Walker said. Another organ recipient was a family member of her husband who tested to be a 100% match for Nikki’s kidneys.

Indiana has 1,500 residents on the eye, tissue and organ donation waiting list; across the nation, the number is 118,000.

“Have the conversation with your family, your friends because you never know if you’re going to be in that position to preserve life. Maybe you’ll have to make the decision when they can’t,” Walker said.

Lynch’s organization is among 57 federally designated organ procurement agencies. He said Walker took over the conversation when he approached her about organ donation.

“Normally it’s a difficult situation,” Lynch said about talking to family members, “but no one was going to get in the way of what her daughter wanted.” Domonique had signed up to be an organ donor on her drivers license.