August 26, 2020

Kidney transplant patient returns home to joyous reverse parade

Lee Foster’s friends and neighbors smiled, waved, honked and enjoyed cake pops

Lee Foster, seated, and his wife Priscilla wave to passers-by in a reverse parade organized to welcome him home after kidney transplant surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Granddaughter Nyla, foreground, handles cake pop distribution duty. Photo courtesy Foster family

It was a hot July day in Alabama, and Lee Foster had just returned home an hour before from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he underwent a kidney transplant. So why was his wife, Priscilla, telling him to hurry up and put on his Vanderbilt T-shirt and come outside?

“I said, ‘What’s going on?’” Lee remembered.

“Just put your shirt on!” Priscilla said.

“I had to comply,” he said.

Outside he found a chair, a mask and his favorite tea chilling in a glass. He slipped on the mask and sat down.

“Then I look up,” he said. “My neighbor is coming over there with a sign saying, ‘We love you, Mr. Foster. Welcome. Congratulations.’ I said, ‘Well, thank you.’ He had his two grandbabies and I said, ‘well, they have something going on.’”

The sign on the mailbox said, “Faith in God, trust in God, Lee Roy got a kidney. Welcome home.”

Indeed, something was going on. Foster’s oldest daughter, Letesha, had organized a socially-distanced homecoming parade with about 20 cars full of people welcoming him home. His granddaughter, Nyla, wearing a mask, welcomed the cars full of well-wishers and handed out cake pops. Lee looked around the yard and saw the decorative balloons everywhere and the sign on the mailbox that said, “Faith in God, trust in God, Lee Roy got a kidney. Welcome home.”

Letesha had organized the parade in Adamsville, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham. The line of cars met at a local shopping center, then drove through Lee’s suburban neighborhood as he sat in his chair. His wife and cousin were taking videos.


The entire Foster family conspired to plan the welcome home parade.

“Even my nurse and my nutritionist and my social worker from the clinic, they were in on it,” he said. “Oh, man. They had balloons, they had signs. Man, I tell you. It made me feel better already. It was great.”

For so long, Lee didn’t feel so great. For six years and five months, he did nine hours of peritoneal dialysis at home every night. For years, he had worked for the local natural gas company, finding and fixing leaks, sometimes in tight places. It was a job he loved, but he was losing strength and energy. He decided to retire, but he never gave up the yard work he loves.

“I grew up on a farm,” he said. “On a farm, it’s work. You get up when it’s dark. Even when I got up to go to school, I had chores to do that morning.”

But the yard work became more difficult. “My joints would get sore,” he said. “I lost my muscle mass. I couldn’t pick up things.”

Meanwhile, he waited on the transplant list at Vanderbilt. Lee and Priscilla packed their bags for when they got the call that a matching organ was available.

The phone rang about 3 o’clock in the morning in July.

“We were excited but we had everything together,” Priscilla remembered. “So, we just grabbed everything, put it in the car, hit the road.”

Lee said the transplant went smoothly. His surgeon was Rachel Forbes, MD, MBA, associate professor of Surgery, chief of the Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation in the Department of Surgery.

“I couldn’t be happier that even COVID-19 could not rain on Mr. Lee’s parade after his kidney transplant,” Forbes said. “What a great tribute from his family and community in honor of this gift of life.”

Almost immediately after the transplant, Lee felt better. Now he is planning life without nine hours of dialysis every night. He’s looking forward to traveling and taking his grandkids to Disney World.

“I feel good,” he said. “I really do. I can tell the difference.”

Lee complimented the transplant team at Vanderbilt.

“It’s just been a great experience,” he said. “Everything was, from the first set of nurses that came in and the doctors. Man, it’s just been great. It really has.”

A video of the parade is here: