State News

Kidney donation takes couple's bond beyond marriage

Posted March 5, 2011
Updated March 6, 2011

— Bettie and James Whitaker married in their teens. They were high school sweethearts.

"She's my partner. We're soul mates," he said.

Almost 40 years later, a health crisis proved the pair is perfectly matched.

Rev. James Whitaker Jr., 57, a diabetic, was diagnosed in 2007 with kidney disease. He changed his lifestyle and began taking medication, but two years later, he needed a transplant.

He asked his nine brothers and sisters and even his three children, but he couldn't find a relative who was a match to be an organ donor.

As he struggled to complete day-to-day tasks and enjoy time with his grandson, Bettie insisted on being checked.

The test found she was that one in a million who was a match for her spouse, but she never had any doubt.

"I always knew in my heart that, if it ever came down to that, that I would be the one to give him a kidney," she said.

The couple underwent eight hours of surgery, and the process was a success.

Wife a perfect match when husband needed a donor Wife a perfect match when husband needed a donor

Hundreds of kidney transplants are performed in North Carolina each year, according to the UNC Kidney Center. Only about one-third are from live donors.

Two month later, they are recovering together, joined by a bond that goes beyond marriage.

She has already returned to work at the Rural Health Group in Scotland Neck, and he will soon return to the pulpit at New Beginning by Faith Church in Rocky Mount, where they share a ministry.

Bettie Whitaker calls it their second chance at life.

"It made me a better man," her husband said.


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  • AF Flight Nurse Mar 9, 2011

    That is some serious love. Thank you for posting some GOOD news!

  • shemontay Mar 8, 2011

    OMG! truly a wonderful story..What a blessing...over and over for forty years and now for years to come. May God continually keep and blessing the both of you beyond what you could ask or think. This is so inspiringly awesome!

  • 1 of the original Americans Mar 8, 2011

    lol ask George Lopez's wife if she would still donate her kidney

  • jbd317 Mar 7, 2011

    Name is District Elder Janice Davis From Galatians Church Elm City N.C. this one story cahnged a lot of hearts. let us know that there is still true love in this world . i tell you it touched my heart and soul . Be encourage you'll are God's Chosen angels we will be in prayer .we at Galatians Independence Church Inc. will keep you in our prayers 4456 London Church Rd Elmcity N.C. 27822

  • RMT-NC Mar 7, 2011

    So good to news of something positive, especially something that touches your heart.

  • pirategirl12 Mar 7, 2011

    Awesome story! My brother also received a kidney from his wife right at a year ago. He was diagnosed w/ Kidney Disease and was to the point where his kidnets were just barely working. It was so bro and sis in law walked around the hospital holding hangs and each pushing an IV pole!