The former Cleveland Police Reserves Officer was featured in several Banner stories, including the April 18, 2010, article about Headrick in the fight of his life, titled “Organ donor needed to save man’s life.”
Although two people had come forward to be tested as donors in 2009 and 2010, and Headrick’s relatives, including his father, brother and great-aunt, were all considered while he remained on the national donors list for more than four years, not a single organ match was found for the Bradley Central High School graduate.
While time was no longer on his side and his future appeared bleak, Headrick said he believe the prayers of his family, the community and his own pleas for a miracle made the difference.
“I was doing dialysis six times a week and three times a day,” said Headrick, who suffered from Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a type of inflammation of the blood vessels which limits the flow of blood to important organs, causing damage and sometimes even death.
The rare disease struck Headrick’s kidneys, leaving his health and life in question and him on the list for an organ donor in need of a suitable match.
“On Jan. 15 — a Saturday morning, I woke up, did my regular routine and started dialysis,” Headrick recalled. “Fifteen minutes into treatment I got a phone call from Vanderbilt [University’s hospital]. The doctors asked me a bunch of questions for pre-op. They notified me that they had a matching donor and asked how quick could I be there.”
Headrick said his family was very excited, crying and rejoicing, after years of hoping and praying for a miracle.
“It was overwhelming and humbling,” Headrick admits. “I lost about 30 pounds overnight from that kidney donor [having been a match, and in the organ donor program]. That’s how much fluid I had on me. My kidneys are working great! There’s been a couple of bumps in the road but everything is fixable. It’s turning out great!”
Not only is his health back on track, but so is his career. Headrick is currently in the Automotive Mechatronics Program at Chattanooga State Community College, which has collaborated with the Volkswagen Group of America to produce some of the best trained, multiskilled workers in the automotive industry through a unique, hands-on educational program.
“It’s on-the-job training and a good opportunity to get my career back in order and start all over again,” Headrick said with a wide smile, adding, “It feels good.”
For those who followed Headrick’s story in the Banner, offering support, prayers and even testing to see if they could donate a life-saving kidney, Headrick paused to reflect on their unselfish gestures.
“I appreciate everyone keeping me in their thoughts and prayers,” he said. “I appreciate all the phone calls and the letters of encouragement. Thanks for always being so uplifting and for all the love the community in Cleveland has shown — especially the golf tournament (fundraiser) and the financial support — thanks for everything.
“You couldn’t pick a better city to be a part of. When things get tough it’s good to know your home town has got your back! It’s humbling. Now I have a story to tell. I have a donor. I keep him alive. He lives through me. I’ll always share his story. That’s my duty. That’s my promise. I’ll keep him alive through me.”
Although Headrick’s donor remain anonymous, the rejuvenated worker with a second chance at a productive life said he is considering making an effort to contact the family after giving them time to grieve.
In the meantime, Headrick said his heart goes out to all those still waiting for an organ transplant and he shared what he learned from his own ordeal.
“Waiting on a transplant is all about attitude,” he said. “We can sit here and look at all the bumps in the road and throw a pity party for ourselves, but we need to stay positive. If we’re not positive we’re just killing ourselves.
“Never give up. Always keep focused. Keep your eye on the prize and know that God is Number 1. Without Him I would have broken down a hundred times.”
According to the Congressional Kidney Caucus, 16 to 17 people die every day while waiting for a transplant of a vital organ, such as a heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas or bone marrow.
More than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ donation in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic. Thousands never get the call, saying a suitable organ donor has been found.
By signing a Uniform Donor Card, an individual can express his or her wish to be a donor. Experts suggest telling one’s family about the decision to be an organ donor so that your wishes will be honored.
For further information or to become an organ donor in Tennessee, visit www.donatelifetn.org. or email Dawn Benjamin at firstname.lastname@example.org.