PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A local woman who was inspired to become a living organ donor after the death of her child met the man who received her kidney Friday.
Laura Gillum had been waiting to meet Brian Cox for nearly a month. Cox, a 39-year-old from Aliquippa, is the recipient of Gillum’s kidney. The surgery was March 7.
Cox said his girlfriend was the first person he called after receiving the news that there was a kidney available for him.
“She was on the phone crying. I was crying. We were so happy because we didn’t think this day would come,” Cox said.
Gillum decided to become an organ donor after the death of her son, Dean, who drowned after falling in the family’s backyard pool in 2015. The toddler’s heart, liver and kidneys were all donated.
“My son was amazing. At 23 months old, he saved three people’s lives. Not many people can say that, and even though he’s gone, I try every day to do something to make him proud of me,” Gillum said.
Since her son’s death, Gillum has created a nonprofit, become a certified CPR instructor and is now an altruistic living kidney donor — giving her kidney to someone she didn’t know.
“I just can’t comprehend why someone wouldn’t want to donate their kidney, so hopefully getting the message out, more people will want to do it and that they’ll want to educate themselves to find out just what everything entails,” Gillum told KDKA’s Lisa Washington.
Cox, who has had kidney failure since 2016, says getting Gillum’s kidney is not only life-changing, she saved his life. Before receiving the kidney, he went to dialysis three days a week.
About Gillum donating her kidney after losing her son, Cox said, “It blew my mind because some people, when they lose a child like that, they become bitter. She didn’t become bitter. She wanted to save lives.”
“You change someone’s whole life just by giving them your kidney, so no more dialysis. He can go wherever he wants to go,” Gillum said.
The two say they plan to stay in touch.
Gillum, who adopted a baby girl named Zoe, introduced Cox to her daughter as her newest uncle.
For these three, it’s a relationship inspired by a loss and a gift they hope will last for years to come.