‘I felt broken’: Life-changing organ transplant for Powhatan woman cancelled days before operation

Plea for a second chance at life

POWHATAN, VA (WWBT) - During National Donate Life Month, we’re reminded that people across the country are waiting for an organ transplant and a second chance at life.

This couldn’t be more true than for 23-year-old Lil Chapin, of Powhatan. She is on the waiting list for an organ with hundreds of others in Virginia.

When she was just a senior in high school, Chapin discovered that not only does she have lupus, but she has kidney failure because of the lupus. Now she’s praying, like 115,000 other Americans, for the organ that will allow her to truly live once again.

Currently, Chapin endures three sessions of dialysis a week and numerous pills so she can hold on to hope of one day achieving her dream of becoming nurse. But despite the disease, Chapin was able to graduate from nursing school.

“I was able to manage to get through that,” she said.

Chapin’s husband, Travis, 23, is by her side every moment he’s not working.

"It’s definitely really hard to watch your other half kind of deteriorating right in front of your eyes, and there’s nothing you can do besides support, encourage and help her in any possible way,” Travis said.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacked Chapin’s kidneys. Now they function at just 9 percent.

“My body just couldn’t handle being on its own,” Chapin said.

There was a moment of hope. After a social media post, a distant family friend offered to donate his kidney. The transplant was scheduled for last month. But just days before the operation, Lil received life-shattering news.

Doctors called off the operation.

“I had already signed my consent. Everything was booked, and they got canceled,” Chapin said. “I felt broken. It was like the finish line was there, and it was ripped away.”

That dream quickly dissipated after doctors discovered late in the process that Chapin’s donor would not be compatible.

Chapin, along with 2,400 other Virginians, are on the organ transplant list, according to Donate Life Virginia. Twenty-two people die every day in the U.S. because the organ they need is not donated in time, according to the organization which manages the Virginia Donor Registry.

Until her day comes, Chapin will suffer through pain, exhaustion, weight loss and mounting medical bills. Her aspirations of becoming a medical nurse and starting her own family are on hold.

“The frustration is just unthinkable,” Travis said. “Watching your loved one, that you’ve been with since middle school, go from full-of-life to a point of absolute pain, crying from pain.”

The majority of people on the organ waiting list are in need of a kidney. The average wait for one can be about four to six years. That day cannot come soon enough, for Chapin and so many others.

“She’ll have her life back that was unfortunately taken from her," Travis said.

“You only need one kidney to survive," Chapin said. “There are people out there who are bound to a machine for their lives because they don’t have that option.”

Anyone interested in donating an organ can contact the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center at 804-628-0711.

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