Paying Forward Lifesaving Care

Most things in Terri Deering’s life come back to horses. Also known as “The Hat Lady,” Terri runs a business selling horseback riding hats and gear. She’s been a competitive horseback rider for most of her life. And when she underwent a kidney transplant at Virginia Mason, her friends in the horseback riding community were there for her too.

In 2018, Terri’s nephrologist at Virginia Mason said her kidney function was declining. She wouldn’t need a new kidney right away. But finding a donor could take years, so she needed to get on the registry. Still digesting this news, she posted on Facebook that she would need a new kidney. That’s when Deb Witty, a friend she’d known through horseback riding for nearly 40 years, signed up to become a kidney donor.

“Deb called and said, ‘I’m gonna be your donor, I just know it,’” Terri says. “Turns out, she was right. I was so overwhelmed and grateful. You can’t put into words what something like that means to you.”

Soon after, both ladies came to Virginia Mason for surgery. While any surgery can feel stressful and scary, Terri quickly felt comfortable with Virginia Mason’s team.

“They were unbelievable,” Terri says. “Everybody — surgeons, nurses, doctors, caregivers — went out of their way to support me.”

That helps explain why Terri recently made a generous donation to support nephrology and transplants at Virginia Mason.

“My experience with them has been exceptional and that's why I felt compelled to donate,” Terri says. “It wasn’t a huge donation, but it was huge for us.”

Now, Terri and Deb are both doing well and are back to horseback riding. Terri hopes her gift to Virginia Mason can help support another family in their time of medical need.

“Deb and Virginia Mason gave me my life,” Terri says. “You can’t put a dollar value on that. But I hope I can help someone else out by giving back to Virginia Mason. I hope to pay it forward any way I can.”

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