Heather Adams, a financial programs compliance manager for Northern New England District in Portland, ME, was in a different position last summer at the Southern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Scarborough when she saw a life-changing social media post.
A 31-year-old woman in Adams’ community was desperately seeking a kidney, having exhausted the pool of potential donors among her family and friends without finding a suitable match.
Adams decided to volunteer for donor testing, in part to honor the memory of her brother, whose death in 2017 at a young age devastated her family. If she could spare another family from a tragic loss, she thought, the sacrifice would be worth it.
While awaiting word of the test results, Adams later had a conversation with a colleague, Operations Support Specialist Tom Leahy. The subject turned to retirement, which Leahy said he didn’t anticipate pursuing in the foreseeable future because his daughter was seriously ill and needed a kidney transplant.
Adams told Leahy about her donation inquiry, and they were stunned to quickly realize that the woman in need was his daughter, Katelyn, whose last name had changed upon marriage.
Now inspired to honor her late brother and support a co-worker during a crisis, Adams soon learned that she was a match, and the transplant surgery was successfully performed.
“Every time we see Katelyn living a full life, so much healthier than she was, we are so incredibly grateful to Heather,” Leahy said earlier this year.
“There are just no words to express how much we appreciate her selfless act,” he added. “Heather certainly is — and always will be — a hero to us.”
Adams points out that other colleagues stepped up to be tested for donation, had she not been a match.
“It makes me proud to work with such caring people,” said Adams, who praises the donation procedure as “surprisingly simple, with very little discomfort,” made easier by the availability of paid leave for federal employees to serve as bone marrow and organ donors.
She was also touched to learn that the date her brother passed away falls on Leahy’s daughter’s birthday.
“At an otherwise sad time, it gives me something to celebrate,” Adams said.