Jersey Village teacher saves friend’s life by donating kidney

September 23, 2019

Jersey Village High School teacher Inyang Ekong, right, visits with Bridget Smalley after the two underwent a successful kidney transplant in late July. Smalley was diagnosed 26 years ago with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition that causes kidney function to deteriorate over time. Ekong was a match and donated a kidney to her friend after hearing Smalley’s first donor organ failed in January.
Jersey Village High School teacher Inyang Ekong, right, visits with Bridget Smalley after the two underwent a successful kidney transplant in late July. Smalley was diagnosed 26 years ago with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition that causes kidney function to deteriorate over time. Ekong was a match and donated a kidney to her friend after hearing Smalley’s first donor organ failed in January.

Sept. 23, 2019—What started as a simple phone call to check on a loved one ended with Jersey Village High School teacher Inyang Ekong donating a kidney to Bridget Smalley and helping save her friend’s life just months after a first donated organ failed.

“She has an extremely giving heart,” said Umoh Cloud, Ekong’s sister who documented the journey between the two ladies at Cloud’s request. “Whatever she can give, she will do. On her birthday, she volunteers to help somewhere. She helps out a lot at her food bank. She helps out a lot at her church. It’s all part of her giving nature.”

Smalley was diagnosed 26 years ago with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition that causes kidney function to deteriorate over time. She received a kidney from a deceased donor a few years ago, but it failed in January, putting her in the hospital for a month.

Ekong called one day to check on Smalley. They met while attending the same church and grew closer throughout the years.

The news wasn’t good–Smalley needed another kidney.

Jersey Village High School teacher Inyang Ekong, in bed, is taken into surgery. She donated a kidney to her friend, Bridget Smalley, after learning Smalley’s first donor organ failed.
Jersey Village High School teacher Inyang Ekong, in bed, is taken into surgery. She donated a kidney to her friend, Bridget Smalley, after learning Smalley’s first donor organ failed.

According to the U.S. government information on organ donation and transplantation, more than 113,000 men, women and children are on the national transplant waiting list as of January 2019. More than 36,000 transplants were performed in 2018, a record high for the sixth consecutive year.

In 2018, there were a total of 17,773 donors, among which 39 percent (6,831) were living donors.

Fortunately for Smalley, she had Ekong, who immediately stepped in to see if she could be a living donor. She went through a series of tests and came out to be a perfect match.

The two underwent successful surgeries in late July for the transplant and continue receiving high marks during post-operation appointments.

“If you can do something now to make a difference, you don’t have to wait until later, and if anything, it was just a humbling experience,” said Ekong.

Added Cloud: “Some people think this is something that happens in movies and not done in real life. I’m a registered nurse so I can say that donations happen and to those who need it, it means a lot. With a living donor, the organ can be more successful.”

Cloud helped document the journey, taking photos and recording videos of Ekong and Smalley to bring awareness to the need for donors and to perhaps inspire others.

Being a living donor falls in line with what Ekong does in her everyday life, her sister said. That goes along with her work in the classroom and through the halls of Jersey Village, where Ekong is regarded as an integral part of the Falcons community.

“In this time when we are inundated with images and stories of how human life is not valued and at stake, Ms. Ekong’s actions counter all of that and exemplifies the very best of humanity,” said Maggie Wiley, Jersey Village High School principal. “How lucky we are to have her as a part of our family. Her story is a reminder about just how special our Falcon family is and how we are making differences in the lives of others every day. Inyang goes above and beyond in and out of her classroom. An amazing story about an amazing young woman.”

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