Virginia delegate, judge forge a bond through a special gift: a kidney donation

Southeast Region

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — This is a story of a match made at a local courthouse.

Not a romance, but a life-saving kidney match.

You may know Del. Don Scott, (D-Portsmouth): He’s also an attorney who represents clients in high-profile legal cases, such as when state Sen. L. Louise Lucas was accused of conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in the case of the vandalized Portsmouth Confederate monument.

On Tuesday, 10 On Your Side met with Scott and his wife Mellanda before he checked into Sentara Norfolk General Hospital

Scott was in a different place Tuesday than his usual role as an attorney or a state leader; On this day he was giving something of himself to a friend. He was soft-spoken.

On Tuesday, Scott was donating one of his kidneys to his next-door neighbor. The invasive procedure would take hours to complete, but Scott was a perfect match.

“I spoke to my wife. If you are willing and you are a match, go ahead and go through the process — and we began the process,” Scott said. “He has been such a good friend and role model. He has the right to live out his life to have a full and healthy life.”  

That good friend — that role model — is none other than Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Johnny Morrison, who swore in Scott when he was first elected to the House of Delegates.

“He asked me how I am doing, and I shared with him about needing a kidney and he asked ‘What is your blood type?’ and I said ‘O,’“ Morrison told 10 On Your Side during a meeting in his judge’s chamber ahead of the transplant operation.

That “O” blood type is the same as Scott. 

 Morrison remembers a small statement Scott made during that conversation.

“He said, ‘You’ll be all right,’” Morrison said.

So, what did the judge think Scott meant when he said that?  

“I interpreted that, that he was going to be a donor,” Morrison said.  

And so, it began. 

Sitting outside the hospital, Scott talked about the process to become a donor.

“I’ve had CAT scans and internal MRIs. I’ve seen photos of the inside of my body that you don’t want to see — that you really don’t what to see,” Scott said with a laugh.  

After all the tests were complete, Scott was given the news: He’s a perfect match for Morrison.

“I felt relieved because I wanted to go through the process, to know I could be a blessing to help somebody who I care about,” Scott said.

BELOW: Before the transplant, 10 On Your Side talks to Scott and Morrison.

Morrison picks up the story from there.

“He came to see me and said ‘I want to let you know I am going to be your donor’… Oh, yes I was taken by emotion because it was definitely something he did not have to do,” the judge said. 

It was emotional on all sides.

“I think he and his wife were overwhelmed, overwhelming emotion for both of us,” Scott said.

Morrison continued working while preparing for the transplant but cut back his caseload.

“They will give me medicine to reduce my immune system because when you put a new organ in your body, the body doesn’t recognize that, and the body starts to fight it, and that’s how you get rejections,” he said.  

Morrison realizes the gift of life that takes place in the operating room.

“I give all honor to God, his grace, and his mercy for giving me a donor,” he said.

It is not lost on Morrison that part of Scott is now in him, and he can’t appear before the judge in court, as it would be a conflict.

“We will definitely have to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and I think that’s the main problem he has because he says ‘You are a fair judge, and I won’t be able to come before you anymore,’“ Morrison said. 

Scott laughed about how part of him is now in the judge.

“I told him [to expect] why he’s going to like the Dallas Cowboys now and why he likes to wear cowboy boots,” he said with a hearty laugh.

“I am content in my decision,” Scott said while calling Tuesday “game day.”

As of Thursday, both men remained in the hospital following the transplant and donation surgeries.

Scott had a 4.5-hour operation. His wife reports he’s doing as expected. A little discomfort, but doing well.  

Morrison’s wife, Cynthia, said he had a 6.5-hour operation. She reports the kidney is functioning as expected. 

Click here for more information on Donate Life Virginia.

Click here for more Sentara Transplant Center.

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