November 21, 2020

The Most Precious Gift

A life with kidney issues brought Gina Lockhart closer to God. After a lifesaving transplant, she lives out her faith by sharing her miraculous testimony and giving back to her community.

As the only surviving baby of a multiple birth, Gina Lockhart dealt with kidney issues most of her life. When she was 14, doctors discovered one of her kidneys was not functioning properly. Her right kidney was removed to keep her healthy, and she was told that someday she would need a transplant.

Lockhart lived an active life with her one kidney, participating in sports like gymnastics and cheerleading before attending college. She married in 1995, and the following year she started a family. During her pregnancy, the doctors watched her health closely. The baby was her little miracle, as she had been told previously she could not have children.

Unfortunately, Lockhart’s kidney function began to decline as soon as she reached her third trimester. At just 31 weeks’ gestation, the clinical team had to induce labor to save her life and that of her unborn son, Daniel. He was delivered at 4 pounds, 9 ounces (just over 2 kg) but was a healthy boy. Lockhart and her little miracle were discharged from the hospital three days later, on Mother’s Day. 

Navigating motherhood and trying to stay healthy, Lockhart continued to monitor her kidney health, but her doctor saw her kidney function decline. In 2006, she was placed on home-administered peritoneal dialysis. Her then 10-year-old son took great interest in helping care for his mother. While walking through the steps of care with his mom, Daniel’s comfort and competence with the process increased, and he began to administer her treatments. Lockhart was grateful for her little helper and amazed at how well he was able to care for her at such a young age.

Lockhart then began to experience serious complications, and her dialysis catheter malfunctioned. The only resolution to this critical issue would be invasive surgery. Even with the suggested surgery, the problem could persist, so doctors told Lockhart she would have to go on hemodialysis, a treatment that was not a good option for an attentive mother with a full-time job.

One evening, Lockhart prayed and asked God to perform a miracle by allowing her new kidney to arrive that night. To the doctors' amazement, God answered her prayer, not by giving her a new kidney, but by miraculously straightening the kinked catheter overnight.

“God wanted me to surrender everything to Him,” Lockhart said. “As difficult as it was for me, I relinquished my authority and gave it to God, and God healed me! This was the turning point in my faith. He had given me the desires of my heart. God did what man could not do!”

After that defining moment, Lockhart started living out her faith in amazing ways. As a member of the Orlando Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, she took on volunteer roles like church treasurer and adult Sabbath School teacher. Outside the church, she continued her job at AdventHealth as a financial analyst and shared her testimony with those around her.

Knowing that she would need a lifesaving kidney transplant someday, she asked her fellow church members, friends, and family to pray for comfort and peace for the future donor family that would lose their loved one. Their loved one would then become her kidney donor and give her the most precious gift, the gift of life.

After 10 months on dialysis, Lockhart received the call that a kidney was available, and it was a perfect match.

“I was at work when I received the call. Within hours I exchanged my business suit for a hospital gown,” she said.

Lockhart received her kidney transplant under the skilled and compassionate care of both Thomas Chin, medical director of liver transplant, and Bobby Nibhanupudy, medical director of abdominal transplant, at the AdventHealth Transplant Institute. Her life was changed forever, and she was freed from the time-consuming dialysis. 

“The thoughtfulness and generosity of people in the community who become living or deceased organ and tissue donors enable us to save the lives of people like Gina, who have no other option than a lifesaving transplant,” Nibhanupudy said. “It is easy to sign up to be an organ donor and to talk to your family about your wishes. Those simple steps can literally save lives.”

Today, Lockhart continues to give her time and talent as a wellness champion for AdventHealth and by serving as a volunteer for Central Florida’s organ procurement organization, OurLegacy. She loves to share her testimony in churches and community events, where she can educate on the importance of designating one’s wishes as a registered organ, eye, and tissue donor.

Lockhart’s journey has come full circle. By the end of the year, her now 24-year-old son Daniel will have finished emergency medicine technician (EMT) training, fulfilling his childhood dream to help others through a career in health care. An organ donor saved his mom’s life, and now Daniel is inspired to save lives as a skilled first responder.

“God is so real in my life,” Gina said. “It takes real faith to go to the next level with God.”

The original version of this story was posted by Lake Union Herald.