The Gift of Life: Better Than Any Diamond

Latrisha and her boyfriend Chris

Latrisha and her boyfriend Chris

Better than any diamond, Latrisha Beckwith received the ultimate gift of love from her boyfriend, Chris, on Valentine’s Day 2012.

“Most girls get a ring. I got a kidney,” she says with a smile.

The couple met two years before, soon after Latrisha relocated to Chicago from California. Stress from the move, finding a job and adjusting to a new city left her feeling ill with little energy left over to think about dating.

“Love was the farthest thing from my mind, but Cupid was already busy working,” she recalls. “I fought it, but Chris was vehemently persistent as if he knew something that I did not.”

Latrisha found a job, but she continued to feel ill. During a health screening at work, her blood pressure was alarmingly high. She was admitted to a hospital, where tests showed she had been living with lupus for some time. The disease left both kidneys with minimal function. She was just 30 years old.

“Chris and I had only been together for four months,” Latrisha says. “I didn’t expect him to stick around after all of the physical changes, like the loss of my hair due to medication. But he proved me wrong. He was with me at the hospital every single day.”

Chris even offered to donate his kidney: He was a donor match.

Latrisha and Chris on Valentine's Day prior to surgery.

Latrisha and Chris on Valentine’s Day prior to surgery.

Instead of pursuing that course, Latrisha, a “silent skeptic,” decided to sign up for the organ transplant waiting list, preparing for a wait of three to five years. Nearly two years of challenging and draining dialysis treatments followed. She tired easily and had to coordinate her life around dialysis treatments and restrictions needed to stay alive.

By Valentine’s Day, Latrisha decided to accept Chris’s offer, her name was officially removed from the transplant list and Chris gave Latrisha the gift of life as a living donor. The two recovered well from the surgeries, and Latrisha has noticed a remarkable difference since receiving her transplant.

The final glance between Chris and Latrisha prior to transplant.

The final glance between Chris and Latrisha prior to transplant.

“I’ve got get up and go now,” she says. “Before, I would get tired walking a few blocks or even up a flight of stairs. Now, I feel better than ever. I enjoy life without limits.”

Latrisha says she wants to share her story and make people aware of the urgent need for donors. “Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list, and more than 120,000 people, including 5,000 in Illinois, are waiting for transplants. Sadly, 18 people die each day waiting.”

Everyone can help by becoming a registered organ and tissue donor, Latrisha says. “Say ‘yes” when you get or renew your driver’s license or register your decision at GiftofHope.org.”

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