Lawyer Nefeterius McPherson 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 recently.
But that clothing choice gave McPherson a chance to talk about and honor Taitlyn Shae Hughes, a 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 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 to show 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, where the WVU Mountaineers defeated the University of Texas Longhorns by a score of 48-45.
“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 purpose: to show how connected McPherson 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,” McPherson says.
McPherson now lives in her hometown of Killeen while she recovers from the transplant, but she says she soon will return to D.C. for a checkup. She hopes to head to Dallas eventually to resume her legal career.
Notes McPherson, “I would love to be able to get on with a big firm and use what I’ve learned at USTR [the U.S. trade representative's office] and my experience with a transplant. . . .”