January 18, 2024   •   By Deanna Boyd Spangler
Separate Surgeries at Texas Health Fort Worth Occurred Over Holiday Break

FORT WORTH, Texas — Three North Texas educators spent part of their holiday break in the hospital to give the most precious gift of all — life.

Louise Bailey, Ava Nickerson and Mike Trevino

Louise Bailey, left, Ava Nickerson and Mike Trevino

Over a three-day span at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, the teachers underwent surgery to donate a kidney to someone in need.

On Dec. 20, Louise Bailey, a retired teacher now working as an art assistant at J.C. Thompson Elementary in the Northwest ISD, donated a kidney to her former college roommate.

A day later, Ava Nickerson, a science teacher at the high school in Valley View, north of Denton, provided a kidney to a stranger.

And on Dec. 22, Mike Trevino, a special education teacher and coach at Highland Park Middle School in Dallas, gifted his kidney to a man he used to coach with at Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth.

“Through their chosen profession, teachers give so much of themselves toward the betterment of others, so it should really come as no surprise that these three chose to donate their kidney to someone in need,” said Joseph DeLeon, president of Texas Health Fort Worth. “We are proud that Texas Health could play a role in helping to facilitate their selfless and lifesaving gift.”

The donors are back at work now and doing well.

“When I was a kid, I never understood when people said giving is so much better than receiving,” Trevino said. “I get it now.”

Bailey’s gift

Louise Bailey’s move to North Texas in the fall of 2020 enabled her to reconnect with her college roommate, Kathy Knowles, a retired Keller school principal. When they later began living down the hall from each other in the same apartment complex, Bailey witnessed firsthand all her friend had to endure while undergoing dialysis for stage 4 kidney disease.

“I was having to take a driver’s test and one of the questions was, ‘Would you consider being an organ donor?’” Bailey said. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why don’t I just do it now? I’m pretty healthy.’”

Bailey immediately called Knowles.

“She said, ‘Do you want a kidney?’ I asked, ‘Do you have a spare one somewhere?’ And she said ‘Yes,’” recalled Knowles, 65. “I told her, ‘You’re not going to donate a kidney to me!’ That was stupid for me to say because Louise is the most determined person in the world.”

Bailey, 66, said she felt no fears before the surgery and no regrets after.

“I really felt God’s hands in all of this,” Bailey said. “To see how much she has had to go through and hope this can make her quality of life better, it was definitely the right thing to do.”

Knowles is eternally grateful.

“She knows how much I care and how much I appreciate her and I’m going to spend the rest of my time showing her that,” Knowles said.

Nickerson’s gift

Ava Nickerson does not and may never know the name of the man who received her kidney.

Three months after her own son, 43-year-old Joel Nickerson, donated one of his own kidneys altruistically, she followed in his footsteps and donated to a stranger.

“If my son could give his heart away and still live, he would do that. He’s a very generous young man,” Nickerson said. “I saw how he did … and thought, ‘I can do this.’”

As a teacher, Nickerson knew she could safely donate a kidney for the betterment of someone who needed it.

“I teach anatomy and am always amazed by how our body is created,” said Nickerson, 69. “Even though I have two kidneys, I know that my body can function with one. A person whose kidneys are not functioning properly does not feel well, so my prayer is that the recipient will have a much better quality of life.”

Trevino’s gift

Mike Trevino met Mason Williams while both worked as coaches at Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth.

Though they would later go their separate ways, they kept in touch via occasional texts and even met up one day to watch a Poly scrimmage. That’s when Trevino learned that Williams, who had been born with only one kidney, was having medical problems.

“He told me that his one kidney had failed all the way down to about 10%,” said Trevino, 54.

The conversation weighed heavily on Trevino, prompting him to soon look into whether he could donate one of his kidneys to Williams. Tests confirmed they were a match.

“The way I looked at it, they have a daughter that is the same age as my granddaughter. I’ve had a great life and by no means do I think I’m anywhere near it being over, but he had too much going for him to be unhealthy, and to die soon would just be awful,” Trevino said.

Trevino’s gift threw Williams for a loop, especially because the men weren’t particularly close before. Now, they’re like family and in contact daily.

“We had only worked together for two, almost three years, so it was kind of a shocker,” said Williams, 28. “You’re giving another human being another chance at life, really.”

Like his fellow educators and donors, Trevino scheduled the surgery for when he’d be off from school on holiday break. His wife marked it on their calendar as “Save Mason Day.”

While the six surgeries – the donors and the recipients – made for a busy week for Texas Health Fort Worth’s kidney transplant staff, there were no complaints.

“We knew it was important to them to get back to the classroom as soon as school started back, so we were excited to have the opportunity to accommodate this unique circumstance of three back-to-back surgeries the week before Christmas,” said Robyn Dye, transplant administrator for the program. “And best of all, it made for a very Merry Christmas for the kidney recipients.”

Download pictures of the teachers and recipients.


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About Texas Health Resources

Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.  

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