Amanda Hayhurst: Selfless Angel
Caya and Courtney Knight posted the flyer time and again across the greater Atlanta area. For five long years, their 50-year-old single mom, Vonchelle, had been hooking up nightly to a dialysis machine to replicate the critical blood cleansing and balancing work of her failed kidneys. She feared her time was running out. The grim statistics say that once a person starts on dialysis they have an average of seven years of life remaining. Unless they are blessed to find a kidney donor.
The disappointment of spending eight years on the donor wait list was wearing on Knight and her family. But she never lost her hope or optimism. Besides her family, her saving grace was her career as an analyst at Northside Hospital’s Bone Marrow Transplant Department, where she participated on a team that regularly saved the lives of others, including many children. A mission of love can certainly keep one’s spirits high.
When at home, she would raise her daughter’s spirits by repeating her affirmation, “This is my year, Lord, this is my time for a miracle. I just know it’s about to happen any day now. Thank you, Lord.” Privately though, she thought about the impact her death would have on her girls and prayed for their health and safety every day.
Then, during the 2018 holy season of Hanukah and Christmas, along came her unlikeliest of angels.
Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
Amanda Hayhurst, a 32-year-old medical sales rep and mother of two from Buford, Georgia, doesn’t mind at all being called ‘an ordinary person.’ “Really,” she says, “we’re all just ordinary people.” We politely disagree.
Most of us are ‘ordinary people’ and that’s perfectly okay. Then, there are a smaller group who rise above ‘ordinary’ in any number of ways – through their attitudes, behaviors and habits – the actions they take and the results they achieve. These people impact the world in so positive a way as to be elevated into the category of ‘extraordinary.’ They rightly become leaders amongst us, examples for the rest of us to follow. Those who volunteer to serve in military or law enforcement uniforms protecting American citizens at their own risk is a fertile example.
We’re here to inform Amanda Hayhurst of the following: By voluntarily donating one of her two healthy kidneys to a total stranger, as brave and selfless an act as any we’ve seen, this young, beautiful angel has joined the category of the ‘extraordinary’ forevermore.
Hayhurst was not an especially compassionate person in her early years, she recalls. Instead, she struggled to put herself in another person’s shoes, to understand and care about their troubles. “I wish I could care more about other people,” she would tell her mom.
That all changed when she became a Christian and started to become transformed. A pinnacle moment came while waiting for her son to finish at his martial arts studio. As reported by Fox5 of Atlanta and retold in several other mediums, she was drawn to the flyer tacked on the board with the photo of Knight, trumpeting, “Our Mom Needs A Kidney!!!”
Hayhurst knew almost instantly that she’d be a match. “As I was reading, a feeling came over me that was so overwhelming, I just knew it was God’s hand reaching down. I closed my eyes and could see myself going through with it. I felt called to do this.”
Later that evening she told her husband, Marcus, about her experience in reading the flyer and the empathy she was feeling. Seeing the seriousness in her face, he responded as any concerned spouse would by asking, “Are you really thinking about giving her your kidney? You don’t even know her.” In her desire to be uncommonly generous to a stranger was she being selfish to her own family?
Hayhurst’s feeling of compassion wouldn’t dissipate and she spoke at length with loved ones and health experts, nervously considering all of the ramifications. Beyond the surgical risk, she studied what having only one kidney would mean to her own health and future lifestyle. From the complicated issues such as healthcare coverage, to simpler things like the possible need to change her diet and restrict consuming alcohol.
“I do enjoy a glass or two of wine,” she says now with a laugh. She was assured that wouldn’t be a concern, as long as she keeps her liver healthy.
She made a preliminary decision to go to Piedmont Transplant Center to undergo the required three months of testing. “I barely told a soul, especially not Vonchelle,” says Hayhurst. “She’d been disappointed so many times, I didn’t want to give her false hope.”
Among the referenced disappointments – Knight’s own daughters were disqualified as donors. Her oldest, Courtney, was found to have the same disease that destroyed her mother’s kidneys. Although mom felt guilty for passing Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) on to her daughter, it was a blessing she was tested at age 23. It’s early stage and she’s being monitored and taking the necessary precautions.
Worse still, while Knight’s 26-year-old nephew was being tested for compatibility, he was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind a wife and two young children. His organs were too damaged for transplant.
As Hayhurst’s testing period proceeded, she felt more comfortable by the day. “It isn’t anywhere near as risky a surgery as I had imagined,” she says. “And my life post-operation wouldn’t need to change one bit.”
On December 18th, she received a call from Piedmont that she’d been cleared to become Knight’s donor. “I was so happy,” she told Fox5. “It’s crazy because I didn’t even know her.” That too was about to change. Knight and her extended family and friends would soon be receiving the Christmas gift of a lifetime.
Hayhurst immediately contacted Courtney Knight, who worked at her son’s martial arts studio, to tell her the news. That same evening, when their mom came through the door, her two daughters were standing in the living room with their Christmas angel and her mom.
“My name is Amanda Hayhurst,” she began, “and I’ve been approved to be your donor. The surgery is scheduled for January 25th.” Knight recalls the moment this way, “I nearly fell over on the spot. I felt so humble and grateful. I just wrapped my arms around her and we hugged for about an hour.”
“It was probably the most special moment of my life,” Hayhurst later said. The entire scene was captured on video by her mom.
The next five weeks flew by with Knight making her preparations, including eating only modest amounts of healthy, low-sodium foods along with primarily a liquid diet. While Hayhurst reports having no second thoughts, as the surgery date approached she did experience a wide range of emotions.
“I’m getting a little nervous, mom,” she confessed one evening. Just 16 years her senior, her mother and best friend looked Amanda in the eyes and said, “You know, honey, you don’t have to do this. Everyone will understand.” Her daughter looked back and said, “Oh no, mom, I’m definitely doing this. I’m just a little nervous, that’s all.”
January 25th finally arrived and Hayhurst officially delivered her most special gift. The surgeries were a resounding success all around and each patient emerged with one healthy kidney and a bright new future.
We are influenced and inspired not so much by what a person says, but what they do. In Amanda Hayhurst’s act of radical selflessness, we see someone saying in a whisper and doing in a thundering shout. She has displayed so remarkable a level of charity and commitment to serve that we can only be witnessing the early emergence of a future spiritual leader.
In August of 2015, the world lost one of the great spiritual leaders of our time, Wayne Dyer. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man of charity with a message of hope and healing across generations. But we haven’t really lost him after all, because Dyer’s wise and generous spirit still lives today inside of Amanda Hayhurst and other such angels.
While the remaining body parts this angel can gift away are limited by nature, at least for now, the potential of her spiritual impact in the world appears to be limitless.
The Angel’s Limitless Future
As news of Hayhurst’s uncommon act of kindness has circulated, she’s been flooded with local and national attention thrusting her into the spotlight. Rather than shy away, she has instead embraced and encouraged the attention.
“I think we should shine brightly and use our platform to encourage others,” she says. “People connect through personal stories, not statistics.”
She has certainly been connecting, both on social media’s Facebook and in traditional media channels as well, including a scheduled appearance on the ‘Pickler and Ben’ show in late March. We suspect there’ll be more to come.
When Hayhurst appears in public, her message isn’t about her own act of courage. It is instead a tribute to her higher power. “The only reason I was able to do this,” she says with humility, “is because I was called by God. Each one of us has the same super power to save a life.”
We know this to be true because we have been witness.
As for Hayhurst’s former kidney, it is never far away. She and Knight have been in touch every day since the operation. As self-described sisters, they’ve shared something so rare and personal they now have an impenetrable lifelong bond. In addition, they share a staunch advocacy for the living kidney donor cause.
The Angel’s Advocacy
These two ‘sisters’ are busy spreading awareness on social media and fundraising websites such as givesendgo.com. Besides Hayhurst’s personal Facebook page, she has set up @findyourkidneydonor to serve and promote others in need of a donor. In addition, she has been invited to join the team of donor-to-donor.org and is thrilled for the opportunity.
According to healthcare provider Fresenius Medical Care, 41 million Americans (13% of the population) have chronic kidney disease (CKD). The primary causes are diabetes and high blood pressure. CKD affects certain ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanics and Native Americans, more than it does Caucasians.
“About 430,000 patients in the U.S. rely on dialysis treatments for their survival,” says Hayhurst. That means they are Stage 5 and both kidneys have failed. “In addition,” she continues, “over 100,000 people are on the donor waiting list. In any given year less than 20% will find a donor, living or deceased, and over 5,000 people on the list will die or become too sick to receive a transplant. The need to raise awareness is urgent.”
The Next Chapter
This is just the first chapter in an unfolding story of spiritual leadership. With her vital role in bone marrow transplant procedures, Vonchelle Knight has contributed to saving countless lives. She has now been blessed with a tangible reward – her own life renewed because of Amanda Hayhurst’s pure expression of unconditional love.
As these two extraordinary ‘sisters’ continue to pursue their charitable missions on earth, we wish them long and prosperous lives filled with perfect health and unbridled joy. May they forever be embraced with the unconditional love they so richly deserve.