NEW ORLEANS -- Twenty years ago a young woman had made her funeral arrangements.
But then she received the ultimate gift from a family she never met, along with something relatively new in the medical field, and a doctor who was not willing to give up changed everything.
Now today we revisit an extraordinary Northshore woman who is paying it forward.
In 1993, a young woman was 62 pounds, blind, on dialysis, from type 1 diabetes from birth. Funeral arrangements were set. Lindy Darby just wanted to see her adopted little girl grow up.
That's when LSU Health Sciences Center transplant surgeon Dr. Philip Boudreaux went to bat for her. Something relatively new, a double transplant of a pancreas and kidney, might save her life and cure her diabetes.
But the team of medical experts were against it, saying she wouldn't survive. He pushed anyway and Lindy became one of first few hundred in the world to have the surgery.
"Every now and then you just have to listen to your gut. This was one of those times I just saw something in her that she was a fighter," said Dr. Boudreaux.
In 2003, Lindy's 10th transplant anniversary, we found a new woman. She was now married to a widower she met online, raising his four children and her own daughter.
She was a college graduate with honors. She wrote a cookbook and was volunteering with people terminally ill and blind. She did rodeos, water skied and wanted to sky dive, but there was a hole in her heart.
For 10 years, she'd written letters hoping they'd be passed on to her donor's family, strangers who changed her life. She wanted to meet them.
After our story ran, Carolyn Buhler called the newsroom saying she thought hers was the donor family Lindy was searching for after losing her 8-year-old son Scott to an anyeurysm.
They finally met.
"I am so happy for you," said Carolyn Buhler, crying and hugging Lindy in the doorway of her home. "I am so happy to meet you. For 10 years I've been thinking of all the things I wanted to say to you. Thank you for the prayers. You gave me the strength to handle my loss."
"All these years I've been thinking about all the things I wanted to say to you, and now I can't think of anything except than you. I've had 10 years of life. Ten years to spend with kids, my husband, my family," Lindy said as she cried.
Last August, Lindy Darby Guidry celebrated the 20th anniversary of her organ transplant. At 54, she has a masters in education and two more degrees in counseling. She works in a St. Tammany elementary school.
"It's a small elementary school in a community that has high poverty, high crime, kind of thing. I love it, love it, love it. These are the most wonderful children in the world, but they are also needy," Lindy said of her clients.
Since the parish's transportation for people with disabilities is full, friends help Lindy get to work. Still, much of her income goes to taxis.
After work she volunteers for the Renewed Hope Center in Slidell, helping adults, teens and children, the mentally ill and homeless. She helps people get their lives back. The non-profit doesn't turn away anyone. It struggles to keep the lights on.
"There is a job for me to do and God gave me a second chance so that I could do this job," she said.
Lindy remembers one emotionally troubled boy who drew a picture for her of glasses with odd-shaped lenses. It's a picture she can not see. Lindy remembers what he said when he gave it to her.
"Well, I made the eye pieces look weird because you made me see my life in a different way," said Lindy, quoting her client.
It goes back to the gift from her young donor, Scott, who not only saved Lindy, but gave a widower a wife, children, now grown and serving in the military, a mother, their children, a grandmother, and for hundreds of other people in need, hope.
"What an incredible, incredible gift that was in a time when their sorrow was just unimaginable and I'm so grateful for that. And I wanted to be able to take that gift and do something positive with it," said Lindy.
When asked how he feels seeing the tremendous ripple effect, Dr. Boudreaux said through tears that he felt "pretty good."
"We just kind of celebrated 20 years of life through the miracle of transplantation," said Lindy of her visit last August with Dr. Boudreaux. "And that's why I just encourage everybody, everybody, what a gift, what a gift. I have had 20 years. I'm going to cry. Twenty years to raise my family and hopefully to do something to give back."
Maybe Lindy can't see, but others can see she's paid it forward and has shown many to see life in a new light.
To be an organ donor, you can sign your license.
For more on the counseling services, or to donate to Renewed Hope Center, call 985-288-5275 or click here.
Photo courtesy William R Greer Sr. / Greer Art Unlimited