Army Pfc. Danielle Carpenter was torn. With deployment to Iraq on the horizon, Carpenter didn’t want to let her fellow troops down.
But with her mother in desperate need of a kidney transplant, there was one other mission she could not refuse.
“I did this for my mother because she deserves it,” said Carpenter, 20, a 2002 graduate of East Kentwood High School in an e-mail from Iraq.
“I watched my mom deteriorate before my eyes growing up, and I told her from the minute I knew about the kidney failure that I would give her one of mine.”
With her mother, Kentwood resident Diane Brogger, at her side, Carpenter gave her left kidney in a March 25 operation at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. And true to her nature, Carpenter was eager to honor her military obligations despite a complicated recovery.
“I asked to be deployed as soon as possible. I didn’t donate a kidney to get out of deployment,” Carpenter said.
She is back now with members of the 3rd Army Calvary Regiment at a base in northern Iraq. But she remains puzzled why anyone thinks what she did is anything special.
She wasn’t about to let something as trivial as the removal of a kidney stop her, though.
Before Carpenter could make this sacrifice, she needed approval from military officials.
“When the soldier first came to me and talked about it, I thought it was the right thing to do — to support her mom,” said 1st Sgt. Rodney Greene. “I knew she had been dealing with this problem a while.”
Carpenter took leave in December to travel to the Mayo Clinic for tests. Though not a perfect match for her mother, she was the best doctors could find. By then, her mother had lingered on a transplant list for seven years.
“I see people die with less years on the list than I have all the time,” Brogger said.
Two weeks after surgery, Brogger’s immune system began to reject the new kidney. She spent much of April getting daily blood transfusions and drug treatments to combat the antibodies attacking the kidney. Later, surgeons removed her spleen.
Carpenter pulled a muscle shortly after surgery, keeping her in the hospital nine days instead of the predicted two. The cause? She was pumping out sit-ups, eager to get back in fighting shape. [emphasis mine]
All Americans, and especially West Michiganders, should be immensely proud of Pfc. Danielle Carpenter. I’m proud just to be from the same area as she is.