From organ donor to tissue recipient: ‘Just a miracle’

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you believe people can be angels, you can find a couple at Eastown Salon in Grand Rapids.

Working as a hairstylist, Becky Richard finds herself building relationships with a lot of her clients. Two of those relationships have shaped her life — in one case helping her save someone’s life and in another giving her early warning to fight breast cancer.

“Yeah, she’s the one who told me to go get the mammogram. Yeah, she totally saved my life,” Richard told one of her clients as she highlighted her hair Tuesday morning.

That “she” is Diane Courtney, another client who has also been Richard’s friend for about 15 years.

Courtney confided in Richard that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer after her first mammogram at the age of 40.

“I said to her, ‘Have you ever had a mammogram done?’ She said no and I said, ‘You probably should get one done.’ Because my doctor told me once I turn 40, I should have one done,” Courtney said.

But like many of us, Richard had been busy living life when she turned 40 — she was pregnant and then nursing.

She was also giving life to another of her Eastown Salon clients. When she found out a client named Judd needed a kidney, she learned she was a perfect match and gave him one of hers about a year ago. She wears a necklace with a kidney-shaped charm on it that Judd gave to her.

“You learn the hard way there are some things you shouldn’t put off and a mammogram’s one of them,” Richard said.

A day after Courtney’s urging, Richard scheduled a mammogram. The following appointments confirmed she, too, has breast cancer.

“With the aggressive form that I have, my surgeon said, ‘I really don’t see this type in a stage I, it’s usually a III or IV by the time I see it. So you’re just so lucky,'” Richard said.

When asked if she feels like an angel, Courtney said no.

“I feel like I’m just a tool in God’s hand and she was actually her own saving angel,” she said of Richard.

There’s another angel in this story — an anonymous one.

Wednesday, Richard will undergo a mastectomy. The surgeon will use donor tissue to reconstruct her breasts.

“It’s unreal,” she said. “I never thought when I started working here 17 years ago I would be an organ donor and now tomorrow I’m going to be a tissue recipient. So from donor to recipient. It’s just- It’s just a miracle.”

Courtney is wrapping up radiation treatments.

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