Taylor Pikkarainen, a traveling nurse, spent over two months this spring on assignment in New Jersey helping to save the lives of patients with COVID-19.
Pikkarainen, 27, then returned to her home state of Minnesota to save the life of a young boy by donating her kidney.
“It just feels really great that he’s healthy and happy,” Pikkarainen told “Good Morning America” of Bodie, who will turn 2 in December. “It’s amazing and I’m very, very grateful.”
Pikkarainen found out about Bodie’s need for a kidney earlier this year through her sister-in-law, who is a close friend of Bodie’s mom, Gloria Hall.
Bodie was born with congenital nephrotic syndrome, a life-threatening condition that causes your body to discharge too much protein in urine and ultimately progresses to kidney failure, according to M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where he underwent the transplant in July.
One of Bodie’s four older siblings also has the syndrome and required a kidney transplant five years ago; Hall was the donor. Because Hall had already donated a kidney and her husband, Bodie’s father, was not a match for their son, the family put out a plea for a kidney donor.
Once Pikkarainen heard about the need, she knew almost immediately she wanted to be Bodie’s donor.
“I was sitting there and just quickly looked up the side effects for me as a donor, for giving up a kidney,” she said. “There’s always a risk with surgery but there was no increased risk for kidney disease or kidney failure, having one kidney versus two.”
“And within half an hour I was signing up,” she continued.
Hall, who lives in a town neighboring Pikkarainen, said she remembers the exact moment she received a call “out of the blue” in February that her son finally had a kidney donor.
“I guess the biggest feeling was … of relief because it really was the thing hanging over our heads,” said Hall, who did not know at the time that Pikkarainen was the donor. “We knew it was the point where he needed to have the surgery and we obviously couldn’t have the surgery without a kidney donor.”
Bodie spent one month in the hospital after his birth and has had to undergo frequent infusions to help boost his kidney function. He has also relied on a feeding tube since the age of seven months, according to Hall.
Pikkarainen said she thought about remaining anonymous as Bodie’s donor, but then decided to tell the Halls by sending a letter and a stuffed animal for Bodie.
She also met Bodie in person for the first time a few days before the transplant,