Lawyer and native Texan Nefeterius McPherson (pictured) caused a minor stir when she wore a yellow West Virginia University T-shirt into the decidedly burnt orange-clad crowd at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin last weekend to see the University of Texas Longhorns play the WVU Mountaineers.
But that clothing choice gave McPherson a chance to talk about and honor Taitlyn Shae Hughes, the 12-year-old West Virginia girl to whom the yellow shirt used to belong and the person who saved McPherson’s life.
The attorney has suffered from secondary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare bile duct and liver disease, since her first year at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in 2004. The debilitating disease finally caught up with her last year, when she had to leave her job in Washington, D.C., as press secretary for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for treatment.
McPherson was put on a waiting list for a new liver. In November 2011 she received Hughes’ donated organ in a successful transplant surgery at a D.C. hospital, after the child died of a sudden brain hemorrhage. Through Facebook, McPherson quickly discovered that Hughes was her donor and found photos of her.
“I’ve always posted that my favorite picture of Taitlyn was her wearing that shirt,” McPherson says.
When she met Hughes’ family three months after her surgery, she gave them engraved necklaces as tokens of her appreciation. And the girl’s mother, Nicole Siva, had a present for McPherson.
“She gave me Taitlyn’s shirt. I never expected to leave with something tangible from my organ donor,” McPherson says.
So she wore the shirt proudly to the Oct. 6 football game.
“I was really excited about going to that game. This is the best way to celebrate my transplant,” McPherson says. “And what I thought was a simple gesture for my organ donor has taken off like wildfire.”
She tweeted to WVU fans a photo of herself wearing the shirt, side by side with a photo of Hughes wearing the shirt. Her tweet had a simple message, showing how connected she felt to the 12-year-old who saved her life.
“I said, ‘I’m from Texas and my donor [Hughes] is from West Virginia.’ I said that ‘we’re forever bonded by one liver.’ And that’s received more than 11,000 likes. And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ ” McPherson says.
McPherson is living in her hometown of Killeen while on medical disability but will return soon to D.C. for a checkup. And she hopes to head to Dallas eventually to resume her legal career.
“I would love to be able to get on with a big firm and used what I’ve learned at USTR [U.S. trade representative’s office] and my experience with a transplant and use all of those things together.”
— John Council
Photo credit: Trey McKentie