JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The kidney inside Jackie Chatmon -- the one that works -- was inside her best friend less than three months ago.
As Chatmon's friend, Tina Angelique Scafidi Dykes of Madison, put it, "I didn't need it, so why should I hold onto it?''
As Chatmon put it: ``I can never get rid of her now.''
Even before the transplant, few friends could have been closer than these women -- separated in age by nine years; separated, some might say, by the color of their skin.
Dr. Alan Hawxby, University of Mississippi Medical Center
But Chatmon's race against time was the only race that mattered to them.
On Feb. 17, time may have doubled for Chatmon.
That was the day of the transplant. The day Chatmon, 43, of Jackson, calls her "new birthday."
The day that made history at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
"This was the first time we had a living donor give to a person of another race," said Dr. Alan Hawxby, the surgeon who extracted Dykes' kidney.
The donor, Dykes, is White; Chatmon, the recipient, is Black.
"Typically, donors are blood relatives,'' Hawxby said. "Until 10 or 15 years ago, transplant programs insisted on using only them."
Today, the difference is the new anti-rejection medication, Hawxby said.
It's better at coaxing the recipient's body into accepting another person's organ.
Still, relatives are the usual donors; they are usually the first to step up. But none of Chatmon's relatives had the right blood type.
No one who offered Chatmon a kidney was in Blood Group O. No one, as it turned out, but Dykes.
Dykes' offer didn't really surprise her mother; it just shocked her.
Now 34, Angelique Dykes, born Scafidi, was 5 when her father died.
"She is my only child,'' said Brenda Scafidi, 64, of Pelahatchie. "As you can imagine, I was afraid when she told me she was going to do this.
"I was afraid for her children, my only grandchildren; and for her husband Kevin.''
In a way, it was losing her father that made Angelique a giver, Scafidi said.
"I believe her father's passing opened something up to her,'' Scafidi said.
She made friends fast and often. They took the place of the siblings she'd never have.
Friends equalled family; there was no difference. They helped fill the hole in her own family's life.
"And all through her life,'' Scafidi said, "whatever she had, if someone wanted it, she would give it to them.''
Some 30 years later, without being asked, Dykes tried to give Chatmon her kidney.
Chatmon wouldn't take it.
"I said, 'No, no, no,' when she offered,'' Chatmon said. "I didn't want her to have to do that.''
It wasn't their first dispute.
The women had met in 1999, when both worked for a Department of Mental Health facility in Brandon.
At one point, Chatmon became Dykes' boss.
``I had to write her up sometimes,'' said Chatmon, who was the substance-abuse outpatient director at the time.
``Angelique would call my mother and say, 'Jackie is being mean to me.' ``
As a substance-abuse prevention specialist, ``I was supposed to be out doing my job,'' Dykes explained, with her contagious, chirruping laugh. ``But I liked hanging around the office.''
Said Chatmon: ``She's a free spirit; I'll put it like that.''
Partial to cowboy boots, the Beatles and Elvis, Dykes became known as ``the Progressive Lady'' -- a reference to the perky TV shill for Progressive Insurance.
``It's funny,'' Chatmon said, ``but the more I wrote her up, the closer we got.''
Chatmon, a bit older, a bit more serious, can't explain why she and Dykes became close, other than to say, ``We just clicked.
``I never thought about why; it was just always there.''
Together, they took trips to the Vicksburg casinos, never dreaming that one day they'd share a life-and-death bet.
They shared each other's families. For a time, Chatmon's older daughter, Danielle Chatmon, baby-sat Dykes' son Joseph, now 11.
``I call Angelique my White auntie,'' said Danielle Chatmon, 24.
``I love that whole family.
``My friends from New York and California pinpoint Mississippi as nothing good, as racist. But it's not like that.
``They couldn't believe it when I told them about Angelique: 'She's going under the knife for your mom?'
``If Angelique ever questioned it, you couldn't tell it.''
Dykes knew too much to question it.
She knew that Chatmon had been diagnosed with hypertension -- the cause of her kidney failure.
She knew that for two years Chatmon had endured dialysis to stay alive.
She knew how that process ate up three hours of Chatmon's day, three days a week -- time that took her away from her daughter Kendall, 9.
``The people at the dialysis unit are great,'' Dykes said. ``But I can't imagine being tied to that machine.
``And I never heard Jackie complain.''
Now a licensed practical nurse at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dykes also knew a patient on dialysis who had died, she said. ``She was the same age as Jackie.''
Kidney patients who get a transplant are expected to live longer than those on dialysis, Hawxby said.
``Twice as long, from the time of the transplant.''
So when Chatmon's supply of potential donors ran dry, she changed her mind.
She asked Dykes if her offer stood.
``I said, 'Hell, yeah,''' Dykes said. ``Although my mom doesn't like me to use that kind of language.''
Dykes passed all the donor tests -- physical and mental -- a process that frustrated her in its thoroughness.
``I said, 'Does my friend have to die before this is over?' ``
Dykes also considered her husband, Kevin, and her children, Joseph; Britton, 6; and stepson Christopher, 17. There is no history of kidney disease in the family, she said.
``The chance of any of them ever needing one of my kidneys is slim.''
The transplant required about five hours, two surgeons -- Hawxby and Dr. Fauzia Butt -- two anesthesiologists, about a dozen operating room nurses, plus scrub techs, recovery room nurses, and a half-dozen lab techs.
And, said Dykes' mother, hundreds of prayers.
``I'm so thankful for Angelique and Jackie,'' Brenda Scafidi said. ``As a mother, you give birth, so you are part of a life-to-be. But this is something beyond birth.
``Angelique and Jackie can look at each other and say, 'We share a life.' ``
They share more than that, Danielle Chatmon said.
``Sometimes my mom will say something and I'll go, 'Oh, mama, that's Angelique talking.' ``
No longer tied to a dialysis machine, Jackie Chatmon is able to take more and longer trips now.
She can't play contact sports, at least for now. Other than that, and a few dietary restrictions, she's mostly back to normal, she said.
A month ago, she was able to return to her job, part-time, as a program administrator for the Department of Mental Health.
She now has more energy. Her hair is growing thicker.
``And I tell Angelique, 'You've got a good kidney. I'm always going to the bathroom.' ``
``You've got the cream of the crop,'' Dykes said. ``So don't complain.''