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‘I actually thought she was going to die.’ Father gives daughter second chance at life with help from strangers

Melissa Varner
July 31, 2019
James and Fantashia Spruill
James and Fantashia Spruill

When his daughter asked if he would give her one of his kidneys, James Spruill didn’t hesitate. “I immediately told her yes,” he says.

At the time, he didn’t know anything about becoming a living donor – he just wanted to help his daughter, Fantashia. She had recently been rushed to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and diagnosed with kidney failure. Fantashia would need ongoing dialysis until she could get a new kidney.

Before Spruill could become a living donor for his daughter, he had to go through extensive screening to make sure he was healthy and would be a good match for Fantashia. As a long-haul trucker, Spruill would drive down to Charleston for bloodwork and testing at MUSC between jobs. Spruill remembers feeling helpless as he watched Fantashia get sicker on each visit. “I actually thought she was going to die,” he says.

Finally, it was time – transplant day. “It was March 28,” Spruill says. “I’ll never forget that day.”

Spruill was discharged the next day but had to stay close to MUSC so he could be monitored for possible signs of infection or complications from the surgery. He and his wife checked into a hotel for three days before going home to Denmark, a small town about two hours from Charleston. 

The MUSC Transplant Patient Support Fund, which is supported by donations, helped cover the cost of their hotel and meals while they were in Charleston. Spruill says it was a big help, especially knowing he wouldn’t be earning a paycheck while he recovered from surgery. “It came in handy,” he said. “I was just thankful that they did that.”

More than anything, he’s grateful Fantashia is healthy and no longer dependent on dialysis. “She gained her weight back,” he says. “She just looks like a totally different person.”

Since his surgery, Spruill has become more aware of the need for living donors. Family, friends, and even strangers have reached out to him about needing a new kidney. “I just feel compelled to help these people,” Spruill says. “They don't know what they're going to do.”

He started by passing out living donor information packets from MUSC. The packets explain how living donation works. They also come with a blank health history form. Filling it out is the first step to becoming a living donor.

Before giving a kidney to his daughter, Spruill never would have considered donating an organ to a stranger. “But now, knowing what I know and doing what I did, I would,” he says. “You’re going to be a blessing to somebody. That’s the greatest thing you could ever do. You’re giving them a second chance at life.”

About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Thank You Notes