By R. Alan Richardson
How many times does a person save someone’s life? In the case of former Morgan County all-around superstar, Shakarah Boswell, she didn’t just save someone’s life, she saved the life of her Daddy, as she calls him, by donating a kidney last month.
“It was like I was supposed to do this,” said Boswell. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Boswell is remembered around Morgan County for her prowess on the softball, basketball, cross-country, and soccer fields. She’s also remembered for her accolades as a student, person, and community member. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this county that has a negative word or thought about this young lady. Her coaches, teachers, administrators, family, and friends all agree that she’s a winner, on and off the court.
On the field of play, Boswell played softball for four years under Coaches Doug Connelly, Brandon Patch, and Anne Stamps. She also played basketball for Coaches Josh Reeves and Charlemagne Gibbons on a squad that went to the Elite Eight two years running. Her senior season, she also ran cross-country for a depleted squad and made it to state by finishing sixth overall.
“I had never run a cross-country race in my life before the region meet,” she said. “They asked me to run to help out so I did. I had no idea what I was doing and was thinking that I was glad this would be the only time I’d have to do it. After I finished sixth, I had to run again in the state.” The results earned her an All-Region nomination. That type of versatility tells you a lot about her athleticism.
Boswell also excelled in academics while at MCHS, earning a 3.6 GPA in her AP curriculum. She continued her academic/athletic career beyond high school, playing softball at Berry College in Rome, Ga., a Division-III college. Her marketing degree landed her a job with Bankers Life and Casualty in Atlanta where she plans to return to work next week. When asked about her favorite teachers, she named two of her former coaches, Connelly and Reeves, saying they were excellent teachers who made social studies fun with their styles of teaching.
Her father, Jerry Boswell, became aware of his renal condition while getting routine bloodwork done through his job with Georgia Power at Lake Juliette when he was told he had a kidney infection in 1995. His creatinine level, along with his blood pressure, was elevated, but improved after seeing his doctor. However, his health began to decline as kidney failure eventually caught up with him in 2014. It worsened to the point of total renal failure and he needed a kidney to save his life and keep him from enduring life-long and life-changing dialysis treatments.
Shakarah Boswell told us, “My sister (Shana), a lady at our church (Ms. Audrey Hawkins), and I all had started the testing earlier, but when Daddy got better, they stopped all the testing. We were all matches. When he finally did need a kidney and went back on the transplant list, I was the furthest along in all the testing so I told the others that I would go ahead and finish the tests up and be the one.”
The transplant occurred on Sept. 13 at Augusta University Medical Center and both Boswell and her father are doing well in the recovery process. Boswell was released only two days after the surgery, and her father returned home after five days. She plans on returning to work as early as next week. Mr. Boswell fully plans on returning to his job as soon as possible.
In most cases, the biggest burden falls on the primary caretaker in a situation such as this. That person is Shakarah’s mother, Stephania Boswell. She talked about some of the problems they encountered.
“The week of the surgeries was the same week as the big storm we had,” she said. “The weather was especially bad Monday when we got here. Signs were blowing down in Augusta. They had to check into the hospital on Tuesday. When the power went off that week, I had to return home to clean out the fridge then turn around and go right back. We had to stay in a hotel Monday night. The other thing during all of this was all the things they tell you. There’s so much information that you need more than one person to help remember it all. Just the medications alone and keeping up with them is very difficult.”
Boswell commented about her mom’s role. “She was the glue that held us together and made sure that she took daddy or got him to all his appointments. Mama has been there all the way; before, during and after.”
Her mother laughed. “I enjoy taking care of them. They’re my family, even when I’m fussing at them.”
Mrs. Boswell said she was thankful for the outpouring of support from the community. “My friends at Morgan County Middle School (where she has worked for the past 20+ years) gave me a care package that included just about everything you would ever need. There were cards for lodging, gas, and food, quarters and bills for the machines at the hospital, blankets, a pillow, magazines, socks, crossword puzzles, snacks, and even a laundry basket. They had me set.”
When the conversation got around to Shakarah, the words from her parents came easy. “Everybody says she’s my twin because we look so much alike,” said Jerry. “Shakarah is outgoing and loves everybody. I’m very proud of her.”
Her mom chimed in. “If I could use one word to describe her, it would be selfless. She’s helpful to all those around her including her friends and family. If she sees something that needs to be done, she’s the first to do it. She loves our church too.”
Boswell talked about the ordeal and the things that meant the most. “I was most thankful for the things that weren’t tangible,” she said. “I like talking to people and being around them. The people who reached out to me with phone calls, texts, cards, and visits helped get me through.
“It was like I was supposed to do this. I wasn’t nervous at all, but the doctors and nurses kept asking me if I was sure. It was almost like they were trying to talk me out of it or they thought my parents were forcing me into doing it. That wasn’t the case at all. I was prepared for a lot of pain and being out of work for a long time, but it didn’t happen.”
According to Mrs. Boswell, “After the surgery Shakarah begged the doctors to see her daddy, but they made her wait until the next day. They were both so happy to sit and eat dinner together the next night.”
It wasn’t hard to get some thoughts from some of her coaches. Her former softball coach, Anne Stamps, said, “Shakarah is a total package type kid. She’s smart, talented, hard-working, and a great person. I coached Shak and can’t think of one day that she didn’t give it all that she had when she stepped onto the softball field. She loved her teammates and was always there to encourage them every day. She had that same work ethic in the classroom. Shak is a one-of-a-kind kid; she’s a dream to coach and an honor to know.”
Josh Reeves, one of Shakarah’s basketball coaches, noted, “Shak has always been the person on the court or field with the biggest heart and no fear. She could always overcome whatever obstacle was put in front of her. With this, she never saw it as an obstacle. She treated it like her purpose or duty. There was never a question that she was going to do it. It was ‘Can I do it and when do you need me?’ She was always a great person and a great athlete. Clearly, she is a great daughter too.”
Charlemagne Gibbons had these words of praise for his former guard, “I have had the honor of being around Shakarah as a student-athlete and a church member. When I first heard about her donating a kidney to her father, my first thought was ‘Wow.’ That’s just who she has always been, putting others in front of herself. She did it playing sports, school, and church. I have two daughters and I just hope and pray that they could turn out to be half the example of sacrifice that she shows in her daily life.”
When her parents were asked if they worry about her future health, Mrs. Boswell said, “She’s a strong believer in God. If something happens, He’ll take care of it. God planned for us to see this when Shakarah came into the world 23 years ago. He put us in that place for Shakarah to do this amazing thing for her daddy.”