Lori Parker and Cheryl Faglier have been close ever since they met 17 years ago at Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Harlem. Now they're even closer. In March Ms. Faglier donated her right kidney to her best friend, Ms. Parker.
When they met, they both lived in Harlem.
"We became instant friends," said Ms. Faglier. "We both sang in the choir. We eventually started doing other things together. We found out we shared some similar life experiences."
Ms. Parker, now 44, began having kidney problems when she was 11.
"I started dialysis in 2004," she said. "The only way to get off dialysis is to have a transplant. Last year I found out about the Kidney Foundation. I was told I would have to have $10,000 before they'd look for a donor."
If Ms. Parker had stayed in Georgia, the foundation would have matched what she came up with. But in August 2008 she moved to Belvedere.
Churches and other organizations held fundraisers. In May 2008 the Carolina Jamboree in Belvedere, managed by Ms. Faglier's husband, Melvin, held an all-day Lori Parker Fundraiser with food, yard sales, raffles and live bands.
Then the idea came.
"I was at church one Sunday," said Ms. Faglier, 62, who now lives in Martinez. "And it just came to me that it was the right thing to do. I didn't even wait to talk it over with my husband -- I just told him, 'This is what I want to do.' "
It took a little over a year getting ready for the surgery.
"There's a lot to go through with," Ms. Faglier said. "I had various other tests including an EKG and echocardiogram. I started having blood pressure problems, which the doctors finally labeled 'white coat syndrome.' I wasn't sure for a while if I was going to be able to do it."
Then Ms. Parker had complications related to her dialysis.
"When we finally went to the hospital to have the surgery, the power went off," Ms. Faglier said. "We thought for a moment they might have to delay it. But I knew in my heart they wouldn't. I had prayed about it, and Lori had been sick for so long. I had enough faith to know it would be OK."
And it was. The surgery went well.
Ms. Faglier had laparoscopic surgery to remove her kidney. She recovered quickly.
Ms. Parker, on the other hand, took longer. She has been in and out of the hospital several times since, but she said doctors have assured her that the kidney is functioning well and that it will take time for her body to adjust.
Dr. James Wynn, the director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Ms. Parker's surgeon, said the surgery is a very standardized operation and is very common these days.
The program at MCG started in 1968, and about one-third of the donors are living. Typically, the living donors are biologically related, but spouses, in-laws and friends donate also, Dr. Wynn said.
Dr. Wynn, who has performed 1,100 transplants, said the success rate is very good in the case of living donors. One month after the surgery, it's 99 percent. Three years later, the rate is about 90 percent, but other factors are taken into account.
Regarding Ms. Parker's case, he said, "I'm glad to have been there to help. They're good people, and I'm glad to see her have a better life expectancy."
Ms. Faglier's grandson jokingly told Ms. Parker, "You always wanted to be part of our family -- now you are."
"I never thought I'd find a friend like that," said Ms. Parker, tearing up. "I owe her a lot."