CCS Teacher Shows Bravery and Strength as a Living Organ Donor
January 25, 2024 - In a remarkable act of compassion and selflessness, Heidi Baxter, a technology teacher at World Language Middle School, has become a role model by showing her commitment and enthusiasm for her community by being a living organ donor.
A lifelong Columbus Crew fan, Baxter was scrolling through the Columbus Crew Nordecke Facebook group - a page for followers of the soccer team - when she read about Heithem El-Hodiri. El-Hodiri, a research scientist and assistant professor at The Ohio State University, made a post about his two-year search for a new kidney. Baxter, curious about what she could do to help a fellow fan, got tested to see if she could be a match.
"I read the post, and I thought, why not," Baxter said. "I didn't know much about living organ donation. I had no idea what it entailed, but I thought I could at least go, get tested, and learn about the process."
Eager to help someone in her community, Baxter got tested and turned out to be a match. Baxter was overjoyed at the opportunity to help El-Hordiri and his family as a living donor.
"Through all of this, I just consider the effects for my recipient and my recipient's family," Baxter said. "Those things just bring me so much joy. I'm so proud that Heithem had the bravery to ask strangers for help."
Becoming a living donor is not without its challenges. Baxter faced fears and uncertainties, such as short-term and long-term side effects. The medical team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center prepared Baxter for what life would be like afterward so she could make an informed decision. Baxter's medical team provided clear instructions on dietary restrictions, monitored sodium levels, advised on alcohol intake, and emphasized the importance of regularly monitoring heart health.
"All these are things that everybody should consider to better our health and hopefully live a long and healthy life," Baxter said.
Through these challenges, Baxter cites her friends and family as her biggest inspiration. She hopes to instill bravery in her students, demonstrating that seeking assistance when necessary is perfectly acceptable.
"It is important to have situations to show students and share with them that we, too, have to be brave sometimes as adults," Baxter said. “El-Hodiri was brave in asking, and in a way, I was brave for accepting the challenge."
However, Professor El-Hordiri gives all credit to Baxter as he believes she did the impossible by being that perfect stranger who would not only be a donor match but willing to save his life.
"To say I'm grateful for her willingness to donate [an organ] is an understatement," El-Hordiri said. "It is really overwhelmingly amazing to think that someone would donate to another person."
El-Hordiri and Baxter are looking to the future. They look forward to cheering on the Crew together as the team hopefully brings home another Major League Soccer Cup next season.
"This is the best I've felt in years," El-Hordiri exclaimed. "I will see Heidi a lot more once the soccer season starts back up."
Throughout this season and into the years to come, El-Hordiri will have to do frequent check-ins with his medical team to ensure that he is staying healthy while continuing to cheer on the Columbus Crew alongside Baxter.
By sharing their experience, Baxter and El-Hordiri hope to encourage others to overcome their hesitations and consider helping others in need.
"As a living organ donor, I know that my recipient and the people he touches in his life are just so excited to get to spend time with him," Baxter said. "What other greater gift could you give in life to someone?"