Nefeterius McPherson honored the organ donor who saved her life by "proudly" wearing a rival NCAA football team's shirt at the West Virginia v. Texas game Saturday.
When McPherson was a law student at Southern Methodist University in 2005, she was diagnosed with Secondary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare bile duct liver disease, according to the Daily Anthenaeum.
"I was told that I may, one day, need a liver transplant," McPherson, 38, told the Anthenaeum. "Either one of those situations alone is stressful, but it was almost like my two worlds collided. You have this medical condition, and then you have law school. It's just by the grace of God that I stayed sane."
In May 2011, while working in Washington, D.C. for the Obama administration, McPherson's condition worsened and she needed a liver transplant and was placed on a waiting list, the New York Daily News reported. On Nov. 6, McPherson received a call from Georgetown University Hospital and learned a match had been found.
Taitlyn Shae Hughes, a 12-year-old from Martinsburg, W.V., was that match. Hughes had died of a sudden brain hemorrhage caused by an AVM rupture, the Anthenaeum reported.
While she was relieved to have a match, McPherson said she struggled with knowing her organ donor was so young.
"How could I be happy about the transplant when I knew a family across town was mourning the loss of their child, their baby?" McPherson told the Charleston Gazette. "I really struggled with that. I still do sometimes. It's bittersweet."
Three months after McPherson's surgery, she met Hughes' mother Nicole Siva.
"As soon as she walked in I noticed the similarities between her and Taitlyn -- their smiles, their beaming personalities. It was uncanny," Siva told the Gazette. "They both loved football, they're both incredibly photogenic. They're both people who everyone wants to be around.
To keep Hughes' memory alive, McPherson created a Facebook page as a memorial and to raise awareness being an organ donor saves lives.
The West Virginia University v. University of Texas football game on Saturday marked the 11-month anniversary of McPherson's transplant. So McPherson, despite being a fifth-generation Texan, went to the game wearing a WVU shirt. Not just any shirt though -- it was one of Hughes'.
Siva said McPherson is carrying on Hughes' dream to "change the world."
"Not many 11-year-olds are passionate about being an organ donor," Siva told the Gazette. "As soon as Taitlyn found out about it, she said it was what she wanted to do. She was a special little girl, wise beyond her years, who didn't get to do the things she wanted to. But she's doing them in passing. Nefeterius is doing what Taitlyn set out to do -- she's changing the world."
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