Giving a Part of Yourself for Your Friend


DHS Press Staff

Ms. Nguyen will be out for 3-6 weeks.

By Morgan Fischer, Dominion High School

Living a life of significance is a huge point of emphasis within the halls of Dominion High School and its surrounding community, and while students are encouraged to live that life, what better way to do that than saving someone else’s? Ms. Nguyen, the choir teacher and fine arts chair, is doing just that as she is donating her kidney to a lifelong friend.

Ms. Nguyen said, “It’s not often that you are presented with a real-world opportunity to save somebody’s life.” The surgery is September 28th and Ms. Nguyen says that she will be out, “anywhere from three to six weeks. I’m shooting to come back part-time at three weeks.”

Ms. Nguyen said of her friend, Ahn Sawyer, “I’m donating my kidney to a lifelong friend, our parents are best friends, I’ve known her since I was born.” Sawyer said, “She’s been a lifelong friend or we say ‘faux-sin’ [fake cousin].”

Sawyer also expressed her immense gratitude for Ms. Nguyen. “Her generosity, kindness, support, [and] love for me is immeasurable. For a long time, I could not speak [or] think about her donating an organ to me without coming to tears.” Sawyer said. Ms. Nguyen has also been living her life of significance in different ways, Sawyer explained, “She recently turned 40 this month and to bring awareness to certain causes, she made a donation to 40 different charities, culminating with UNESCO and the American Kidney Fund.”

Sawyer was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease from Lupus Nephritis in 2017, she was undergoing treatments, such as chemotherapy, steroids, and other medications. By the end of 2017, her kidneys went into failure. In January of 2018, she was accepted into the University of Utah transplant program.

The process of Ms. Nguyen donating her kidney has been a long one. Sawyer explained, “I had six volunteers of friends and friends who answered an online health questionnaire. Ms. Nguyen was chosen by the donor team as the best candidate to evaluate first.”

Then the actual process began, “From February to June of this year, she underwent blood tests, urine tests to see if she would be a good match for me. At the end of June, Ms. Nguyen came out to the University of Utah where she went through the last steps of evaluation and was approved as my kidney donor,” Sawyer said.

Despite this long and life-changing process, Ms. Nguyen said, “I didn’t even really think about it because like, I’ll get tested, everyone will get tested because she a wonderful person and she is really healthy other than this one thing. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a simple decision.”

“Physically I have been preparing by just getting in shape eating healthy, eat well, rest, all of those things,” Ms. Nguyen said. And while all of the physical things are important, Ms. Nguyen stressed the importance of being in the right space mentally as well, “They make you talk to a social worker to make sure that you are in the right mental space to give a kidney, because you can experience things like anxiety, mental health issues, [and] depression.”

The recovery process has several stages, Ms. Nguyen will be in the hospital in Utah, as that is where Sawyer lives, for one or two days, and after that, she will be in Utah for about a week and a half. Ms. Nguyen said, “[The] biggest side effect is fatigue because your body is trying to compensate for that [missing kidney] as you heal.”

Still, Ms. Nguyen is very optimistic about the procedure, “It’s weird to say, that I’m excited. But I am excited. It’s not often that you get a chance to really impact someone’s life and I’m happy [and] I’m thrilled to be able to do it.” Ms. Nguyen goes on to say, “I’m in a place in my life where I’m able to do it. I have a supportive work environment that allows me to do it.”

Despite these physical and mental hurdles, school is another obstacle that has to be tackled. Ms. Nguyen said, “The biggest thing for me is preparing to miss school. I’ve never actually missed a big chunk of school, figuring out a substitute, figuring out what lessons they can do.”

Ms. Braxton, an assistant principal, has faith this her absence will not have a huge impact. Ms. Braxton said, “She’s such a well-organized teacher. She will either have everything planned for the sub or have the students in a position where they know exactly what they need to do.”

Ms. Nguyen seems to have everything all ready for her departure. “I have a retired Loudoun County teacher to come in and teach, which is a huge relief for me because I know once [I] are gone they are still learning and they are probably learning, not more, but learning different things,” Ms. Nguyen said.

Ms. Nguyen also explained how her students have been supportive of her journey. “I came into the year and was really upfront with the students like this is what is happening I am going to be gone for this amount of time. This is why I’m going to be gone, they have all been really supportive,” Ms. Nguyen said. In order to prepare for her absence, Ms. Nguyen explained, “I’m going to push them really, really, hard so that by the time that I leave, I feel that we are in a good place.”

Ms. Braxton explained what Dominion has been doing to support Ms. Nguyen, she said, “[Just] making sure that we admire her for her decision and asking her what she needs while she is gone.” She goes on to explain, “I am in awe, what a sacrifice. I mean when you talk about leading a life of significance, what she’s doing is saving somebody else’s life. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”


This story was originally published on DHS Press on September 25, 2018.