By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Kristen Zumwalt has visited her parents AJ “Bud” and Kathy Taylor from Florida on many occasions.
Normally she leaves them with smiles, grandchildren moments and precious updates about her teaching career. But when she departs this Saturday for Jacksonville, Zumwalt will have left her father Bud with the gift of life.
Back on Oct. 15, Zumwalt donated a kidney to her father. The procedure was successful and both father and daughter shared laughs in his living room Wednesday afternoon.
“Near the end of July I called Michelle at University Methodist about seeing if I was a match,” Zumwalt recalled. “It was that simple.”
The Millington area heard of Taylor’s dilemma back in the summer. The United States Marine Corps veteran soldiered through everyday life without a kidney and the support of his wife Kathy.
Bud made a public plea and one of the first phone calls he received to save his life was from his daughter.
“When she first told me, I was doubtful about it,” Taylor acknowledged. “The reason was because I don’t have any kidneys. And I didn’t want her to be in the same boat I was and having two kids to raise.
“When I was in the hospital, the nurses told me to look at it this way,” he continued, “’You had two good kidneys and they both went out. She can live off of one. But if one of hers goes out, both will go out. Same as you. She can be healthy with one and you can be healthy with one.’”
Taylor said his natural instinct was to make sure Kristen was safe.
“My first thought was to protect her,” he said. “But one it was explained to me like that, I never thought of it that way. I told her if she was willing I would try.”
Zumwalt said the wonderful man she loves deserves more time with his family.
“I was thankful I was a match,” she said. “No doubts or hesitation — because he’s my dad. He’s my dad and my kids deserve to know him as well as I do.”
His grandchildren will learn that their grandfather survived warfare in the jungles of Vietnam in 1968-69. The 71-year-old is approaching 50 years of marriage to Kathy in August. Bud is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps for 24 years and came to the Memphis area working FedEx for another 24 years.
Taylor might teach his grandchildren about his road to survival from kidney disease. Back in February 2019 both organs shut down and stopped functioning.
Bud had dialysis every night for 9 hours when he made his public plea. Shortly after Kristen contacted Michelle Floyd, the RN at Methodist University Hospital University Tennessee at the Transplant Institute.
Before the transplant could take place, Taylor was on the brink of death in August. Kathy said he was restrained to the bed but fought back to have a chance to live.
Zumwalt went under the surgical knife first and had one of her kidneys removed. Then it was her father’s turn to be prepped and received the kidney.
“She didn’t get any staples. I did,” Taylor recalled jokingly.
As the pair embraced on his couch, they both have a new lease on life. Zumwalt will head back to Jacksonville grateful to have her dad alive.
“Anything you can do for family you should do,” she said. “Family matters above all.”
Bud said his wife and daughter are his heroes who kept him alive during the battle for his life.
“I’m like her, family means everything,” he concluded. “If you don’t have family might as well not have anything.”