Gift of life: Woman meets organ donor’s family

Published 5:51 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Early in 2015, Twyla Jefferson-Taylor of Bogalusa was in bad shape. She had complications from diabetes that were affecting her kidneys and other organs. She was anemic, and she felt really bad.

“I was on a lot of medicines to try to prolong my kidney functions,” Jefferson-Taylor said. “I was always swollen, especially my face, hands, legs, and ankles. I was tired, not making much urine, my body was starting to fill with toxins, and I was losing functions daily.”

She needed a kidney and pancreas transplant. But although she wanted to live for her husband, Robbie, and their 9-year-old son, Zay’Lin, she didn’t wish anyone else any harm. Then, in mid-February of 2015, 21-year-old Tyler Louviere suffered a fatal car crash, and Jefferson-Taylor got word that she was up next on the transplant list.

“I felt blessed,” she said, more than two years later. “I knew I was being blessed by my God! I was so excited because I knew this would give me another chance to live, and be a mother and wife, and to continue to enjoy my family and friends. I knew God was not through with me just yet.”

On Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, Jefferson-Taylor’s life would change forever. On that day she headed to Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans to be gifted with Louviere’s kidney and pancreas.

The change was dramatic. She now has organs that function properly, and which will help keep her alive.

“Now I feel great, healthy, happy, grateful,” Jefferson-Taylor said. “I feel I can do all the things that I was not able to do. I am diabetes-free now. Yes I am! I cannot put in words how I am happy about that.

“It took me a long time to get use to not eating foods that contain lots of sugar. I mean, I’ve tried them, but I don’t have to have them. If given choice of diet drinks and regular I say, ‘give me diet please.’”

There are potential complications with any type of surgery. She was told that with organ transplant surgery, those complications include infections and the risk of rejecting her new organs. Jefferson-Taylor will be on anti-rejection medications the rest of her life.

“I’ve been told after so many years you may have problems,” she said. “But me, I’m going to put it all in God’s hands. I believe this was his gift to me, so I’m going to take care of it, take all my meds, go to all my doctor’s appointments, and follow all doctor’s orders.”

Jefferson-Taylor quickly sent a letter trying to track down her donor’s family. She was able to contact Tyler’s mother, Lori Louviere, who told her that her son wanted to be an organ donor.

“I was so thankful to them for following his wishes,” Jefferson-Taylor said. “I was raised to say thank you, so I wanted to show my gratitude by saying thank you. Thank you goes a long, long way.”

This year, on March 30, the two families met in Lafayette, where there was a ceremony in recognition of April being Organ Donor Awareness Month. The event took place outside Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, where Lori Louviere is an ICU nurse. Both she and Jefferson-Taylor were featured speakers.

“I was able to speak and give the guests some insight of a transplant from the transplant patient’s point of view,” Jefferson-Taylor said. “It was a beautiful day and wonderful weather. Jesus was truly in the midst.

“In my speech I gave I said I’m free now — free of diabetes and kidney disease. I am free!”

After the ceremony, Louviere posted on Facebook that her son’s heart and eyes were also donated. She started by saying Jefferson-Taylor’s “testimony (was) amazing,” and then she continued.

“Life is a gift, a miracle from God,” Louviere said. “So proud of my boy’s decision to be an organ donor. A selfless act that gave life, healing and hope to five people, and sight to two people. Momma’s boy Ty …”