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Man Donates Kidney to His Children's Babysitter

Mark Neville and Tasha Herrera

Ten years ago, Tasha Herrera was hoping to go skydiving for her 26th birthday. As a precaution, she went to her doctor for a check-up just to make sure she was healthy before jumping out of an airplane. Herrera, who lived in San Diego, learned that her blood pressure was particularly high. After a series of tests, she was told that her kidneys were failing.

“In 2017, my kidneys hit 10 percent functionality and my doctor told me it was time for a transplant,” Herrera said. “At that point I had moved to Houston, so I went to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) for a second opinion. I knew that was the place where I wanted to have my transplant.”

Living kidney donation is usually the fastest and most effective way for a person with end-stage kidney disease to receive a kidney transplant. Living donation offers important benefits compared to a deceased donor kidney transplant, including a significantly shorter wait time. Feeling she was her own best advocate, Herrera went to social media to share her story and need for a kidney.

Mark Neville, 49, saw Herrera’s Facebook post. Neville had met Herrera nearly 15 years ago in San Diego when he and his wife were in need of a babysitter, and they’ve remained close over the years.

“Before I saw Tasha’s Facebook post, I didn’t even know that giving a kidney as a living donor was possible,” Neville said. “The power of social media is astounding.”

Several people were tested to see if they were a potential match, Herrera said. But it was Neville’s kidney that would work best for her.

Herrera’s transplant coordinator at Memorial Hermann-TMC, Megan Parker, informed Herrera there was a match, but she didn’t tell her who it was. Parker left it to Neville to share the news. “My phone rang and I saw Mark’s name on the ID,” Herrera said. “I knew it had to be him. Of course, I cried. He probably didn’t understand a thing I said over the phone.”

Neville donated his kidney to Herrera in March 2019. Neville’s kidney removal was performed by Dr. David Hall, transplant surgeon with Memorial Hermann-TMC and UTHealth. The kidney transplant to Herrera was performed by Dr. J. Steve Bynon, chief of abdominal transplantation with Memorial Hermann-TMC and UTHealth.

“There are a lot of people who are on that waiting list to get a kidney,” Neville said. “If there were more people who stepped up to be a living donor, it would save a lot of lives. You don’t just have to watch or hear stories about it…you can actually do it. I would encourage people to look into it. I was really happy and honored to be able to participate.”

“It has been an overwhelming experience,” Herrera said. “Sometimes I wish the tables were turned and I was donating a kidney. But to receive is a very humbling experience. It’s nearly impossible to convey just how big of a gift this is.”