Family gathers around Georgian grandmother in need of kidney donor
WALESKA, Georgia. – When Cherokee Rabjohn woke up on her 10th birthday, she was in a hospital bed with very little understanding of how she got there.
“You know those big headphones we had in elementary school? So I put them on and, like, moved my jaw and my jaw cracked,” Rabjohn said, recalling. “And the whole side of my face was sagging, so it looked like I had had a stroke.”
She hadn’t had a stroke, but she had a tangle of blood vessels the size of a golf ball in the center of her brain. The only option was to have risky brain surgery at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta.
“We didn’t know what she would be like when she got out,” says Cherokee’s mother, Debbie Rabjohn. “They said she might never walk, that she might not really speak, that she might not know her family or anyone.”
The surgery, however, was successful, and today Rabjohn is studying for his Masters in Education at the University of West Georgia; she is currently completing a summer internship at Reinhardt University in Waleska. But Cherokee Rabjohn has been spending time with doctors and nurses again lately – this time to support the woman who never left her bedside all those years ago.
“Twenty-three years ago I was diagnosed with kidney disease, and it was pretty rare,” says Debbie Rabjohn. “And now I need a kidney.
Debbie Rabjohn is currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant; it is a process that can be extremely slow, which is why her daughter had a lightning fast reaction.
“I was like, ‘Can I donate my kidney?’ I’ve never seen a more shocked look on my mom’s face because I don’t even think it took me half a second. I was like, ‘Oh, you want my kidney?’ “
Said Debbie, “Having your own child under the knife at the same time you go under the knife and not being able to take care of her and take care of her, was very difficult. And so, to me, I was like, “Hmm, I’m not sure this will work for me”. And she just made me sit down and said, ‘You gave me life. If I can donate you a kidney and keep you close … because I don’t want to live without you. ‘”
Doctors say Cherokee’s kidney doesn’t exactly match her mother’s, but she still plans to donate so her kidney goes to someone else who needs it, freeing up another kidney for her mother. . It’s a process called “paired kidney swapping,” and it’s the same thing FOX Medical Team reporter Beth Galvin participated in in 2015.
Family and friends are also on a mission to inspire others to become organ donors because, as Debbie’s grandson Jayse says, “My Noni needs a kidney.”
And on their second big medical trip together, a lesson for the Rabjohn family: mothers can give birth, but so can daughters.
Family and friends have created a GoFundMe page for Debbie Rabjohn, which you can find here. And Debbie’s Donation Coordinator, Barbara, can be reached at 404-605-4128.
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