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'God's perfect timing' | 3-year-old receives life-saving kidney donation from stranger

Finley Hickman's family prayed for the perfect kidney for him. At the end of 2021, they got their wish when a stranger offered hers up.

SEYMOUR, Tenn. — Finley Hickman has a brand new kidney and is out of the hospital recovering after months of waiting for his perfect match.

Finley was born with a variety of health challenges, but the 3-year-old can light up a room with his smile. Finley's parents Alyssa and Eric know his strength.

"He's such a little superhero and he's so sweet," Finley's mom Alyssa Hickman said. "He's just as sweet as he is cute."

Back in August, Finley and his family appeared on 10News to plead with the public to get tested, so he could find his match. Months later, they got what they prayed for.

"I think everything really did just work out and the perfect timing the way that God had intended it to," Alyssa said.

"It took a while to finally get a person that came back a match for Finley," Finley's dad Eric Hickman said. "But a lot of people reached out after the story broke out, and we're just grateful for that."

After starting dialysis, spending time time in the ICU and relocating to Middle Tennessee to be near Vanderbilt for treatment, a living donor kidney match came through. 

At the time, the donor was anonymous.

"It's incredibly humbling that someone would just be willing to sacrifice something like that for someone else," Alyssa said. "Then we found out we didn't know the donor, so I mean, she literally was sacrificing a part of her body for a complete and total stranger that she didn't know, and it's so humbling and so amazing."

They prepped for the life-saving surgery in December, but some bumps interrupted their path.

"He got a positive test for COVID, and you know, he didn't have any symptoms or anything like that, but it pushed the surgery out about a month," Eric said.

Finally, on January 5, Finley and the donor headed into the operating room to be connected forever.

Credit: Alyssa Hickman

"I think the excitement outweighed the nerves for the most part, but you definitely still have those nerves kind of leading into that," Alyssa said.

It was a success for both patients.

The donor, who they now know as Janis, got to see Finley face-to-face while recovering in the hospital.

Credit: Alyssa Hickman

"We kept wanting to say thank you, and she was like, 'You don't have to thank me, I just I gave him what was already his, this was the kidney that was his, and all I did was just give it to him,'" Alyssa recounted.

So how did the donor's path cross with Finley's? Janis saw a post about Finley in a Facebook group and immediately knew she would be his forever match.

"Oh, God is woven through Finley's story so intricately," Alyssa said. "There's no doubt that God orchestrated all of this."

Now, he's recovering outside of the hospital, on plenty of medication, and goes to multiple appointments a week to make sure everything is working the way it should.

Credit: Alyssa Hickman

The Hickmans are waiting to make their journey back home to Seymour when the mandatory weeks-long waiting period is done.

"He really is doing great, the kidney is working perfectly," Alyssa said. "Every time they tell us the numbers, it kind of hit us all over again, just how how far he's come and how great those the kidney is working."

Their faith is what got Finley here.

One of Finley's extended family members is also searching for a kidney donor.

His name is Billy Jarvis, and he is looking for a living kidney donor. If you want to be tested to see if you are a match, contact Lanny Martin, UT Medical Center's Living Donor Coordinator, at 865-305-5340.

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