“We’re all family.”
That’s Terrie Meyer’s observation of the team at St. Luke’s Eagle Medical Plaza.
This past summer, family did what family does.
Meyer, a patient access specialist, has worked alongside Pat Burton, Eagle’s director of operations, for three years.
“She is just amazing, so caring and giving,” Meyer said. “I’ve never worked with anyone quite like her in my life.”
Burton can say the same of Meyer.
A year ago, Burton’s daughter, Lizzie, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. She would need a kidney transplant – but might have to wait as long as six years for that to happen.
Eagle co-workers and friends stepped up to be tested as a match. Meyer, a universal donor, was almost an ideal match – almost.
Timely testing and data gathering turned up additional matches across the country, and on Aug. 5, Lizzie received a kidney from a donor in Connecticut.
Meyer donated hers five days later to a patient in Pennsylvania.
“It was just a miracle, thanks to Terrie,” Pat said. “I can’t even describe what it means.”
Said Lizzie: “I was so thankful Terrie was willing to do that for me, even if it didn’t work out that way. The fact she still gave one to a stranger says a lot about her.”
It all started at St. Luke’s Eagle last November, when Lizzie was home from her freshman year at Northern Arizona University. She had been feeling a little abnormal, with some headaches, an occasional nosebleed and a small rash.
Her mom suggested a check-up and at Lizzie’s appointment, everything appeared normal, but Carly Hammer, a physician assistant, recommended blood work.
The results “were totally out of whack,” Pat said, and Lizzie was checked into the emergency department at St. Luke’s Boise. There, she was diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome, which affects about one in 500,000 people, mostly Caucasian men.
“I’m neither of those,” Lizzie, who was adopted from China, said with a laugh.
After eight days at the Boise hospital, Lizzie, who was about 30 years younger than any other patient, began hemodialysis three days a week, getting up at 5 a.m. for each treatment. Following a month and a half of that, she began peritoneal dialysis at home.
“She was amazing, just a trouper,” Pat said.
In Eagle, Meyer checks in patients almost daily who have had transplants or need them. She felt a bond with them even before becoming a donor.
“I’m a mom, and I’d known Lizzie. I just had this thought like, ‘I’ve got to try,’” Meyer said. “It’s an incredible process. As I moved along, they did more tests, I knew I wanted to do it, even if it wasn’t going to Lizzie.”
Meyer and Lizzie crossed paths in Salt Lake City, where the procedures were done. A photo of them together still makes Meyer emotional.
“She was doing so good, and she has continued to be. It makes my heart so happy,” she said. “I can’t really explain the feeling, how wonderful it felt to help Lizzie, in a way, and someone else across the country.”
Though she will need to continue to take immunosuppressants, Lizzie has been thriving since her transplant. A photography major with a business minor, she is set to go back to Arizona for her spring semester.
“It’s just been a really incredible experience,” she said. “It made me kind of appreciate life more and be thankful to have a lot of great people around me, like Terrie.”
Meyer’s life has now forever been changed, too.“I feel like we’re all bonded for life,” she said. “It’s pretty special.”
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.