By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – Huey and Linda Collins went to high school together, but they didn’t pay much attention to one another. After graduation, they both went on to marry and raise their families and, ultimately, divorce their spouses.
And then one day in 1991, Huey walked into Linda’s workplace and they reconnected. They even made a date for that weekend.
“He said he had to go to the sale barn to sell some cattle and I said, ‘Oh, I used to go to the sale barn with my Daddy.’ So that was our first date. He came and got me in a ‘32 black Ford.”
Five weeks later, they were married.
“While we were dating, he was coughing, congested,” Linda said. “So he made an appointment at the doctor for a test and I took off work that morning and went with him. It was the most beautiful, gorgeous, sunshiny day. I was on cloud nine and looking pretty sharp. We got out of the doctor’s office about 10 and he looked at me and said, ‘You know, it would be a pretty good day to get married’ and I said, ‘Yes, it would.’”
The two went to their respective homes and packed overnight bags and headed to Hamilton, Ala. By 12:30 p.m. on May 6, 1991, they were legally wed.
Two weeks later, Huey’s test came back. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, or congestive heart failure.
“Dr. Jack Foster treated me for five years and then he said there was nothing else he could do for me,” Huey said. “He suggested a heart transplant.”
The couple went back and forth to Birmingham every two weeks in 1999 while Huey was on a study drug. Finally, he got so weak, he was admitted to the hospital there and spent 58 days waiting on a heart.
“It was quality time for us,” Linda said. “Because we didn’t know if he was going to get a heart – if he was going to live.”
And then a gunshot victim came into the hospital.
Huey got his heart.
“Nine months later, we wrote the family a letter,” Linda said. “And a woman named Virginia wrote back. She said the donor was a 26-year-old black man. He loved old cars, loved music, loved to dance. His name was Anthony. And he was her son.”
Drugs weaken kidneys
Over the dozen years, the anti-rejection drugs Huey is required to take for his heart weakened his kidneys.
“Nowadays, a lot of times when you get a heart transplant, they do a kidney transplant, too,” Huey said.
By 2011, Huey’s kidneys had begun failing. The doctors mentioned a kidney transplant, but Huey didn’t think he was a candidate because of his earlier heart transplant and because he’d recently had cancer on his ear removed.
Linda had other ideas.
“She said from Day 1 when they started talking about a kidney transplant that she’d give me a kidney, but I told her no,” Huey said.
In 2012, Huey began the process of getting on a transplant list.
“And I said, ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’” Linda said. “I registered that day.”
And against the odds, she was a match.
On Oct. 21, 2012, the two checked into the hospital in Birmingham. The next morning, the doctors took a kidney from Linda and gave it to Huey.
“She saved my life,” Huey said. “We wasn’t even supposed to be a match. It was a miracle – God’s gift.”
But to Linda, the gift was hers.
“It’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “And I feel like it would be that way if you gave it to just anyone. But to know you’ve helped save your husband’s life … God has blessed us.”
Want to Go
The Second Chance Transplant Support Group meets the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at McAlister’s in Tupelo. All organ donors and recipients are welcome to attend