Transplant Recipient Dies From Rabies Complications

A Gilmer family is angry that more wasn't done to find out what was wrong with their son who died after a kidney transplant. Over 30 members of the Hightower family gathered at a church in Gilmer on Friday to be questioned and screened for possible exposure to rabies. 18-year-old Joshua Hightower had received a kidney transplant in May. A transplant from a donor who was later found to have rabies. Joshua died on June 21st.

"We expected it to be something that no one had ever heard of, and then for it to be rabies?" Joshuas's mother Jennifer Hightower said.

"I wish he could have got up and walked home with us... I don't know.. I don't know what to say" said father Dale Hightower.

Now several family members have been told they must, for safety, take the rabies vaccine because of exposure to Joshua. Members of the family say they wish doctors could have done more.

"I begged then to watch what the others did. They told us a hundred times they tested for everything" Jennifer says.

Joshua was diagnosed with progressive kidney failure at 2 years old, and had been on a long waiting list for a kidney. For his mother the saddest part is that her son had the second chance he had waited for; and she remembers his excitement after his transplant.

"He was laying there with his eyes closed and he said you know what momma and I said what, he said I've got my whole life ahead of me now my life is perfect. You just wish you could turn back time" says Jennifer.

The Hightowers are left with only wondering "what might have been".

Bob Hallmark, reporting.