Lori Whitaker Lord is a Fishers hairstylist by trade and a modern hero by action. In high school, Lori met Amy Wilson and so was the beginning of a lifelong friendship that has become so much more special than anyone could have imagined back in ninth grade. Lori and Amy have been through many milestones together, including being pregnant at the same time and watching their sons grow up together. Amy’s second son, Ethan, would even enjoy vacations with Lori’s family over the years. The families have become trusted friends and have supported each other through the ups and downs of life.
In spring 2011, Ethan entered his first professional season for the Chicago White Sox. Team doctors performed tests to investigate ankle pain and discovered that Ethan was in kidney failure. His dream of playing in Major League Baseball was temporarily put on hold to focus on his need for a kidney transplant. The next 2½ years was an emotional rollercoaster filled with doctors’ appointments, insurance approvals and waiting to be added to the deceased donor list. Ethan’s transplant nephrologist suggested taking steps to find a live donor match since the deceased donor list could be a five year wait.
Unlike some patients, Ethan was healthy otherwise with no other medical issues that would move him up the list. His left kidney was completely shut down, and his right kidney was only working at about 18 percent. Family and friends rallied around Ethan. Many got tested to be a match, but one by one, they were knocked out for various reasons. A friend was a perfect match, but after further investigation, Ethan discovered he wasn’t financially prepared for the transplant. “I wasn’t aware that I had to have so much money prior to my transplant in order to ensure funding for expensive postoperative medication,” he shared.
Again friends and family rallied around Ethan. Local musician Corey Cox (http://www.coreycoxmusic.com/) played at a fundraiser for Ethan in the fall of 2012. Corey’s dedicated fans and Ethan’s support system came out in full force to raise money for Ethan’s medication. Unfortunately, once funds were finally in hand, the original perfect match had many life changes that didn’t allow for the time off needed to recover after donating a kidney. “I didn’t worry. I let my support system worry for me,” Ethan said upon reflecting over the last year. “I just tried to stay even and control what I could control. I told my mom I didn’t want to know if anyone else was getting tested until there was a perfect match.”
During this time, Lori watched as one by one people were matching but then not passing all the necessary tests to become a donor for Ethan. Lori shared, “I’ve known Ethan since the day he was born, and I wanted to help. I decided to get tested after I found out yet another person failed the tests.” Lori’s first step was a phone interview after which 17 vials of blood were drawn for many qualifying tests. Two weeks later, Lori received a phone call saying she was compatible to Ethan. A long list of tests were then scheduled to further qualify Lori as a donor. She met with donor advocates and psychologists and prayed about her decision. Then one day, she got the call that she was a perfect match. “I was so surprised that I was that healthy and had passed the tests, but I already knew in my heart it was going to work. From the time they told me I was compatible, I knew I would be the one to give Ethan a kidney,” she shared.
One month later, Lori and Ethan went into surgery to give and receive the gift of life. Both are now recovering and looking forward to getting back to their normal lives. Merriam-Webster defines hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” The Wilson family defines hero as Lori Whitaker Lord. Ethan said, “I have been so humbled by this whole experience and am so unbelievably thankful for the support I’ve received from my family, friends and surrounding community. I can’t say enough about Lori. She just left from visiting me! I think she is the most selfless person to give her kidney to help save my life.” Lori doesn’t see herself as a hero. “Ethan will always be a part of my life. He has a very special place in my heart. I didn’t do this to be a hero; I did it to save his life.”
Although Lori didn’t have to incur any costs associated with the testing or surgery, she did need to take four weeks off work to recover. Clients of Lori’s at Salon Krelic, 8912 E. 96th St. in Fishers, are excited for her return. Friends set up a PayPal account for Lori to accept donations to cover costs while she’s away from work. If you would like to donate to Lori, you can find her account at filazafer.wix.com/loriwhitakerlord. You can also schedule a hair appointment with Lori at 317-845-9955.
Ethan’s goal is to get back to the major leagues but knows that getting healthy is his number one priority. He shared, “I encourage everyone to go to the doctor for a regular physical and blood work. Like me, many people have kidney failure and don’t even know it.” Ethan will continue to have expensive medications to maintain his new kidney. Donations are accepted at the First Merchants Bank Heritage Branch, Attention: ETHAN K WILSON FUND, 3055 W US 36, Pendleton, IN 46064.
According to the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization, there are over 117,000 people on the waitlist in the US. Sadly, on average, 18 people die each day waiting for their perfect match. Though living donors can give some organs or portions of organs and tissues to those waiting, sometimes only a deceased donor can save a life. More than 3.4 million Hoosiers have registered their decision to be an organ and tissue donor. Have you? To register, go to donatelifeindiana.org/register. To learn more about organ donation, visit iopo.org.