Kidney transplant connects theatre alums for a lifetime
Two South Carolina actors, Erin Wilson and Monica Wyche, already connected through the arts, are now bonded in a life-altering way. Wyche recently donated a kidney to Wilson, who was diagnosed with acute kidney failure in 2013. The transplant operation took place in early November, and both women are doing well. This blog post, written by Sheryl McAlister and reprinted on Jasper Magazine’s website, is a synopsis of their story, their connections through the arts, and the arts community that embraces all of us.
Part 1, Erin’s Story: “Let’s get this Show on the Road”
The first time I saw Erin Thigpen Wilson was March, 2014, in Charleston, SC. She was playing a sadistic human trafficker in PURE Theatre’s production of Russian Transport. She was the matriarch of a group of equally sadistic family members.
She scared the shit out of me.
“Art…,” Edgar Degas said, after all “… is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
Meeting her, mercifully, was altogether different. She’s groovy in an old school, hippy sort of way. Laid back with a been-there, done-that attitude. Funny. Quick wit. Seemingly carefree.
She grew up in community theatre in Columbia, SC, the child of a father who was a community theatre actor and high school drama teacher and a mother who ran the box office of the local theatre out of her living room. She performed in too many plays to count, starting at the age of 5 as “Rabbit #3” in Workshop Theatre’s production of Winnie the Pooh. Long ago, she learned how to play make believe.
Early in the summer of 2013, she nearly died. Her kidneys were destroyed. Doctors still don’t know why.
“I was having trouble breathing, but that’s normal for me,” Wilson, an asthma sufferer, said. “The first doctor told me I had bronchitis and gave me an antibiotic. But a week later, I had this incredible body pain. My bones hurt. I didn’t sleep for days.”
A second opinion led to tests that revealed elevated creatinine levels. As the doctor ran yet another set of tests to verify her assumptions, she told Wilson to decide which hospital she wanted to go to in the meantime. And she told her to decide quickly.
Wilson’s husband Laurens had met her at the doctor’s office. “We just looked at each other and were like ‘WHAT?’ The doctor told us we could go by ambulance or drive ourselves but if we decided to drive ourselves, we had to drive straight there. No stops.”
They called her parents – Sally Boyd & Les Wilson and Jim & Kay Thigpen. And her in-laws, Hank & Sue Wilson.
She spent two days in the ICU and was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. Her only option was dialysis. And just like that… Life, as she knew it, had changed forever.