'Extremely thankful:' Wake Tech professor receives life-saving kidney from student

Joel Brown Image
Monday, November 21, 2022
Wake Tech professor receives life-saving kidney from student
Student Carrie Fisher is donating her kidney to her professor Valerie Bishop to help save her life.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- On this Thanksgiving week, Valerie Bishop says she is thankful, grateful, filled with "all the 'fulls'" -- as she heads into kidney transplant surgery alongside her Wake Tech cosmetology student Carrie Fisher.

"I'm extremely thankful that this is happening Thanksgiving week," Bishop said in a pre-surgery interview with ABC11. "It just seems like a whole big dream. But through the whole scheme of things, I owe her my life."

Fisher said, "I'm not doing it for accolades. I'm doing this because I have the ability to save someone's life."

It's been a long road since ABC11 introduced viewers to Bishop and Fisher back in March. Bishop, the beloved Wake Tech cosmetology instructor, is suffering from stage five renal failure.

"I can barely walk my dog because you get winded," said Bishop about the effects of her rapidly failing kidneys. "It puts stress on other organs. (Doctors) told me the worst case scenario was if I die it wouldn't be my kidneys that fail me, it would probably be my heart or something else."

For Fisher, Bishop is a lot more than her instructor.

"She's not my friend. She's my family," said Fisher who describes her kidney donor journey as grueling. After UNC Health ruled them a match for donation, Fisher had to lose over 40 pounds to get her body mass index in line for major surgery. Plus, there was the endless blood drawls and CAT scans. Not to mention, Fisher was still working to graduate from Wake Tech and balance her donor responsibilities with her new hair stylist job - and some very understanding bosses at a Raleigh Sportsclips.

Then, came the donor decision from Chapel Hill doctors that the pair did not want to hear.

"I got denied through UNC," Fisher said. "UNC's decision was that it was too much of a risk for me and they didn't feel safe moving forward. "Well, if you remember from last time, I don't take no for an answer."

Bishop added, with a knowing smile, "Carrie's been consistent. She's been nagging. But that is Carrie."

The pair finally found a "yes" in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center agreed to perform the kidney transplant.

"It went from wait, wait, wait to 'Hey you're gonna have surgery in 3 weeks!'" Fisher said.

It's all still a whirlwind for Bishop. "It still hasn't hit me yet," she said.

It's a five-hour long surgery -- making for the most-unique Thanksgiving week ever.

"Even the doctors were trying to do it a week earlier and didn't want to have it in the holiday week. I said it doesn't matter, that's a blessing! So even if I have to have dinner right there in the hospital, it's ok!" said Bishop.

A prospect that Fisher quickly chimed in, "means we don't have to cook!"