When former Maricopa resident Adrienne Cooper decided to give up a kidney to a child, she did not do it for the acclaim. That came anyway when she was named 99.9 KEZ’s Woman of the Month for February 2015.
That instantly placed her among 12 finalists for the Beth McDonald Woman of the Year award, which will be presented at a banquet Thursday night.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Cooper’s father, Julius Cooper, who works on the street crew for the city of Maricopa. “My wife [Jeanne] just wanted to nominate her because we’re so proud of her.”
Adrienne Cooper, 26, a two-time ATV racing national champion, is known for making quick, some would say hasty, decisions on important matters. This was one of those times.
She barely knew Logan Carson, now 11, when she followed an impulse and basically volunteered to give him a kidney. She also did not have a full picture yet of what she was sacrificing.
“I think it’s perfect she was nominated for Woman of the Year, because it was a selfless, generous offer and donation that she made to Logan,” Logan’s mother Candy Carson said. “She’s a pretty special person to us and a part of our family now.”
A Gilbert resident, Logan Carson had been struggling for three years. In 2012 he suffered a bout of strep throat that led to septic shock and the degradation of his kidneys. He lost an eye, a leg and some fingers and toes. He was on dialysis.
Another woman was being tested to see if she was a match for Logan when Cooper learned his story from her sister Teresa Garcia, who knew the would-be donor. Teresa brought Adrienne to an organ-donor fund-raising planning meeting, where she met Candy Carson. In November 2014, Cooper met Logan and the rest of the Carson family at a motocross event.
“I didn’t really know how organ donation worked,” Cooper said. “I told his mom that day I would be a backup donor should anything happen with the current donor.
“My sister told me about Logan and showed me all his videos and filled me in on his story. Just looking at what he already come through and overcame was neat. Then when I met him, I thought, ‘This kid is amazing.’”
The Carsons were nonplussed by Cooper’s seemingly off-the-cuff offer.
“I said, ‘That’s great. Thank you. I think we’re good,’” Logan’s mother Candy Carson recalled.
Then the first donation fell through. Others offered to donate, which the Carsons made note of because “kidney donations don’t last a lifetime,” Candy Carson said. The average lifespan of a donated kidney is 10-12 years.
Candy and Jamie Carson intended to save their kidneys for when their son is an adult, but Candy was getting ready to do the workups to donate.
“Then my husband asked, ‘So, are you going to call Adrienne?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I forgot!’”
They made the call, and Cooper started the workup process. Then she received the information that would change her life – no more motocross. Her lifelong pursuit is considered a danger to her remaining kidney.
By that point, however she was full invested emotionally in Logan and his family.
“It is what it is,” she said. “It didn’t change my mind in the least. I’m a ‘go big or go home’ kind of person.”
On Feb. 11, the doctors announced Cooper would be a suitable donor for Logan. This Thursday, the night of the awards banquet, will be the first anniversary of that much-anticipated news.
The donation surgery took place March 31 at the Mayo Hospital in Phoenix.
“At first it was scary and I wasn’t all for it,” Julius Cooper said. “But she’s got a heart that’s out of this world, and it’s what she wanted to do.”
Adrienne was released early the next day. “They said it was the earliest release they’d had for a kidney donation,” she said.
Throughout the year, Logan and Adrienne have had regular follow-ups, Logan’s being more frequent and more intense. He initially had to go in three times a week and is now at monthly visits, his mother said.
“He’s doing well,” Candy Carson said. “He’s doing very well.”
The only setback has been the BK virus, an infection often associated with donated kidneys. Doctors caught it early enough to prevent organ rejection.
Adrienne’s annual checkup is Feb. 26. She said she feels as fit now as she did before the surgery.
She has found other ways than motocross to feed her adrenalin needs. Her latest venture was hot-air ballooning with her mother.
With ATV racing out of the picture, Cooper has replaced it with a cause.
“I wasn’t even a registered organ donor,” she said. “Now, I’ve made all my friends and family sign up. Just seeing the stats of what organ donation does and how it affects people –- it is a miracle.”
She stays close with the Carsons and Logan.
“I’ve never met anyone like him in my life,” she said. “I felt like I was supposed to help. I felt like that was my purpose.”
The awards banquet is at the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale.