Twenty-eight years ago, Markesha Grayson was living in Atlanta, going to college and in the middle of taking midterm exams. While taking a test, she was pulled out of a classroom and told that her father, who was back in Milwaukee, was in the hospital. Markesha immediately finished her exam and used every penny she had to book a 24-hour Greyhound bus back home.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Markesha learned that her father was in complete kidney failure and needed a transplant. “His doctor said he would have to go on the waiting list, and he would have been 200 or something on the list,” she says. “I paused, and God was sitting there speaking to me, like, ‘You are going to be the donor.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m doing it—I’m giving a kidney.’”
Before they could proceed with the transplant, Markesha’s father had to go on dialysis. Markesha returned to Atlanta, where she had bloodwork and other tests done to ensure she was a match for her father. “I had no choice but to be a match; God gave me the assignment,” she says. “He’s the one who said, ‘You do it.’ I knew I was going to be a match; I had to be the chosen one.”
She was right. “Before I knew it, they were calling me to say, ‘Let’s go,’” she says. Markesha barely slept the night before the surgery. “When they came to get me, they asked if I was sure,” she says. “Everybody was scared but me. This is not a stranger; this is family. What was the alternative? He was 200 or something on the list. Imagine you have the opportunity to save somebody’s life, and you hesitate.”
In December 1994, Markesha successfully donated a kidney to her father, who lived another five years before passing away from cancer. Now, Markesha can proudly say that not only did she donate a kidney to her father, but she is also the longest living organ donor from Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, WI. And she’s on a mission to spread the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation—especially in the African American community.
“I want to leave my legacy and my father’s legacy, even though he’s not here,” she says. “I have to do this, because if people see me and know that I actually gave a kidney and am still alive after almost 30 years, they can do it, too. You don’t even have to be a living donor—just sign the back of your license.”
No matter what happens in her life, giving her father a kidney will always be the best thing Markesha has ever done. “People ask what your greatest accomplishment is, and a lot of people say graduating college or something like that,” she says. “Nothing will ever compare to this. When I die, this is still going to be at the top.”
Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
Approximately 113,000 men, women, and children are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. One organ donor has the power to save up to eight lives and change the outcomes of someone’s world forever by giving them a second chance. Additionally, tissue donation can save and improve the lives of up to 75 people with their gifts. You can make a huge impact by registering as an organ and tissue donor.
Learn more about organ and tissue donation, or register as a donor at https://donatelifewisconsin.org.