CHAMPAIGN — For Kacie Fisher, James Wood Jr. was more than a fiance.
He was the loyal supporter who saw her through kidney failure, dialysis, a stroke and bariatric surgery. And even though he died earlier this month, a part of him remains with her for life.
Mr. Wood died June 4 at age 46 as a result of a traumatic brain injury. Two days later, one of his kidneys was transplanted into Fisher.
She'll need to take medication for the rest of her life to keep her body from rejecting her new kidney, she said, but the transplant means she is free of dialysis treatments for the first time in five years.
Still, she said, "I'd rather have him."
The 45-year-old Fisher of Rantoul said she and Mr. Wood first met when they were in sixth grade at Champaign's Edison Middle School and went their separate ways after high school.
She was already in declining health when they reconnected in 2012 and went on to spend the next seven-and-a-half years together.
Diagnosed first with high blood pressure, Fisher said she developed kidney failure and had to begin dialysis treatments in 2014.
For 101 / 2 hours a night, she underwent dialysis at home, starting her treatments at 6 p.m., so she could be up on time in the morning to go to work at the Hampton Inn in Urbana, she said.
A mother of two daughters, Fisher also had suffered gestational diabetes with her pregnancies and had a stroke in 2017, she said. Last year, she underwent bariatric surgery to help her lose enough weight to make it onto the kidney transplant waiting list.
Mr. Wood was with her every step of the way, helping her with her medicine and her dialysis machine, checking her blood pressure and sitting with her in the hospital, she said.
"I often sit and wonder what my life is going to be like without him," she said.
Fisher said she and her fiance shared the same blood type, and it was Mr. Wood's daughter who made the decision for him to be an organ donor as he was dying in the hospital.
"I feel like it was a tragic miracle that we were a perfect match," Fisher said.
She underwent her transplant surgery at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria and was discharged from the hospital Tuesday.
Mr. Wood's donated organs saved more lives than hers, Fisher said, and she hopes to one day meet the other people who received his organs.
"I'm sad because I miss him, but I am blessed because I have him with me all the time now," she said.