2004: Kidney Donor, Recipient Still Friends

Amy McKenzie ‘had total peace’ about being a match

Melinda Hauser and Amy McKenzie
Melinda Hauser holds up a painting of kidney-shaped flowers that Amy McKenzie (right) painted for her after Amy donated a kidney to Melinda. (Staff photo by Christina Barany)

By Georgia Fisher | Staff Writer

It all started with a letter from a man Amy McKenzie had never met. Dr. Lu Gonzalez was an old friend of Melinda Hauser, whom McKenzie knew casually through their sons’ baseball team. And Gonzalez knew something about Hauser that many acquaintances didn’t: She was on dialysis. She needed a kidney transplant, fast. And despite common misconceptions, it needn’t come from a relative.

“Most people don’t even realize they can be a candidate,” McKenzie says brightly. Until then, she hadn’t either. But she underwent blood tests to see if she’d be a match for Hauser.

Despite the complex system that aligns organ and tissue donors with recipients — one so taxing and specific it often rules out relatives and yields years-long waiting lists, like the one Hauser was already on — the women were a match.

Melinda Hauser and Amy McKenzie 2004Seven years ago this week, McKenzie was out one kidney. Hauser had her life back. And as noted in the Aug. 19, 2004, issue of Park Cities People, both were recovering with no complications.

All was well. It still is. McKenzie actually refers to the experience as “fun.”

If her and Hauser’s story sounds a little dubious, know this: McKenzie wasn’t surprised about the match. Not one bit.

“[Hospital employees] called, and said, ‘Well, we got the results, and you’re a match.’ I was like, ‘Yeah,’ ” she says in an unfazed tone.

Such an event is rare, the caller told her. Rare.

McKenzie says she expected it all along.

“At the time I got the letter … I had four kids and was just busy, not even thinking about going to get tested,” says McKenzie, whose brood includes Ben, now 17, who played baseball with Hauser’s son Jackson.

Then something odd started happening. Every day for two straight weeks, McKenzie awoke, startled, at 4 a.m.

“And every time,” she says, “the first thing on my mind was that letter.” Weighing doubly on her heart were thoughts of Hauser’s severely special-needs daughter, Emily, now 25.

“This is a mom who doesn’t need [health problems] on top of that,” McKenzie figured. When she finally dug the letter from a pile of old mail, “I had this total peace,” she says, “that I was going to be a match.”

Meeting someone so selfless was wholly perspective-changing, says Hauser, who’s in good health and visits her friend as often as she can.

“She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life,” Hauser says. “I’ll never be the same for knowing there are people out there who give of themselves and never expect anything back.”

On the second day of their hospital stay, McKenzie asked her mother to wheel her into Hauser’s room.

“She was crying,” Hauser remembers. “And she said, ‘Thank you. I’m so blessed.’ ”

McKenzie and Hauser, both religious women, say God was contacting McKenzie all those sleepless mornings.

“I don’t want to be the hero,” she’ll stress. “It. Was. God.”

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On April 5, HPHS graduate Doug Wright won the Pulitzer Prize in drama for his play I Am My Own Wife.

On April 22, 97-year-old Dolly Kelton was pulled over for an expired registration sticker and subsequently arrested for an outstanding warrant. The 65-year Highland Park resident was handcuffed, placed in a police car, and driven to the police station. The arrest made national news, and Kelton was invited to New York to share her story on the Today show.

On Aug. 24, former Scot pitching standout Chris Young made his Major League debut with the Texas Rangers. After 5 2/3 innings, Young gave up three runs and struck out four. He now plays for the New York Mets.

In April, University Park and HPISD canceled their scheduled May elections after incumbents on both ballots failed to draw opposition. The cancellation saved the city close to $10,000.

In July, Helen Williams was named director of communications for HPISD. She continues in that role today.

Valedictorian: Daniel Stefan
Salutatorian: Aliaksei Huryen
Blanket Award winners: Lane Evans and Chris Christensen

Bridgette Marie Bell, Elizabeth Ann Bright, Susannah Pierce Cullum, Beverly Claire Eileen Dealey, Meredith Tucker Ford, Amanda Elizabeth Woodall

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