TOPSAIL BEACH, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina man, who lived with kidney disease for more than two decades, is starting the new year with a new kidney and new hope for the future after his wife donated her kidney to him.
Now the couple hopes to encourage others to consider the gift of kidney donation.
Georgie Smith and Tate Tucker have known each other for a long time.
“When we were like 14, we met one another in Okinawa, Japan when our fathers were in the military,” Smith explained.
Over the years they remained close, keeping in touch through letters and visits. At one point Tucker shared with Smith that he was dealing with chronic kidney disease.
“I was diagnosed probably 20 years ago,” Tucker said.
Smith recalled their conversation and her nonchalant offer, “I’ll give you my kidney one day if you need it.”
For the better part of two decades, Tucker’s illness remained stable. It didn’t take too much of a toll on his career as a boat captain or the adventures he and Smith shared when they became a couple.
Then, a few years ago, his health started getting worse. He eventually ended up on the transplant list.
“For my blood type they were saying 3 to 5 years,” he said.
He remembered thinking “If it’s going to be 3-5 years, I’m not going to make it. I tried to put a real big push into getting a living donor, so I tried to throw as big a net as I could.”
Their Topsail Beach community responded with incredible support and a number of people got tested as potential kidney donors for Tucker.
As it turned out, his match was sitting right beside him.
Smith, a nurse, says she researched the process of kidney donation and felt safe and confident about donating one of her healthy kidneys to Tucker.
The surgery took place a couple of weeks before Christmas. It was the first time having surgery for both Tucker and Smith. Although both said the recovery process was painful for the first week, they’re doing well four weeks after surgery.
Tucker says he’s noticed a huge change in his quality of life since receiving Smith’s kidney.
“It’s so magnificent, I just can’t tell you how much better I feel,” said Tucker.
“She saved my life,” he added. “It’s an incredible gift, for sure.”
Now the couple hopes to encourage others to consider kidney donation.
“We have two kidneys,” said Smith. “We can go without one.”
Each with a healthy kidney, Smith and Tucker look forward to more years of adventures together.
“We got married in August — we’re newlyweds,” said Tucker, smiling at Smith.
Although focused on the future, they sometimes think back on their conversation years before.
“If you need a kidney, I’ll give you a kidney,'” Smith recalls saying. “Is that fate? Maybe.”