CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - In 2006, 38-year old Lisa Garner was in the prime of her life. She was a busy wife and mom to three children, but underneath her smiles and beyond this picture-perfect life, the situation was grave.
"I have a rare form of kidney disease called Alports."
Alport Disease is a genetic condition for which there is no cure. Slowly it chipped away at Garner's kidney function and robbed her of energy.
"Being a mom and a wife and not being able to do the things you know you're capable of doing," recalls Garner "was hard."
The disease nearly took her life.
"I don't think I had much longer," says Garner. "I don't know that for a fact, but I know in my heart it was to the point I needed it."
By fall of 2006, her need for a transplant became desperate.
"Once I finally realized it was inevitable, I cried a lot, prayed a lot," she remembers.
The answer to those prayers came in the form of an acquaintance named Celeste Knight.
"It was never even a second thought," says Knight.
Celeste heard Garner's story, and even though Knight, a mother of two, never once in her life thought of donating an organ, she felt compelled to step up.
"Part of it was the fact she's a mom," says Knight. "And because I'm a mom, I don't want to know there are children out there to grow up without a mom."
Knight underwent a series of tests, and she came back a perfect match.
"I was thrilled because I knew I would be able to help her," says Knight.
Both remember the day vividly. It was Wednesday September 27, 2006. At UAMS Medical Center, it was a day that forever changed their lives. Knight and Garner were in the same operating room, with one doctor removing Knight's donated kidney, another transplanting it, saving Garner's life.
"All I can say is thank you," says Garner as she begins to cry. "Thank you. Because of her, I was able to see my daughter get married, graduate from college, see my middle daughter graduate from high school, march in the band. See my son hit his first homerun. It's very special. Very, very special."
"People put me on a pedestal," explains Knight. "And I'm not comfortable with that because I felt like that's what I should do, and I did it."
Because she did it, Garner is busy at her second job now at Conway's Independent Living Center. She's also a realtor and has every bit the energy to keep up. Knowing now that every second she is alive, sharing life with her children and her husband is a true gift.
"Just to see the person and how much it changes their life, it's worth it," says Knight.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Garner says. "She saved my life. Absolutely without a doubt, without a doubt."
Garner takes medication to keep her body from rejecting the donated kidney, but doctors expect her to live a long, healthy life. Knight has fully recovered. Both women share a bond they say will last a lifetime.