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Summerville woman who fought for her daughter's kidney transplant fatally stabbed

Za’Marrea Pugh PRINT LEDE.jpg (copy)

Za’Marrea Pugh, 6, smiles at her mother LaShunda Pugh after getting her feeding tube set up in the back of the car after leaving a dialysis clinic in North Charleston on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. LaShunda Pugh was fatally stabbed in Summerville this week after she allegedly tried to break into another woman's apartment. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

A Summerville mother who was fatally stabbed this week after she allegedly attempted to break into another woman's Dorchester County apartment spent years fighting for her daughter to receive a lifesaving kidney transplant. 

LaShunda Pugh, who was 33 years old when she died Tuesday, told The Post and Courier in 2018 that her daughter Za'Marrea did not qualify for a spot on the kidney transplant waiting list at the Medical University of South Carolina because her own life was too unstable.

Two years ago, LaShunda lacked employment, a spouse, a permanent home, reliable transportation and adequate child care. She was responsible for taking Za'Marrea, who was 6 years old in 2018 and had been born with congenital nephrotic syndrome, to a dialysis clinic several times a week. 

Her daughter desperately needed a new kidney, Pugh said, but MUSC would not consider performing the transplant until LaShunda could demonstrate stability. Kidney donations are scarce and transplants are expensive. MUSC, like every other transplant hospital in the country, prioritizes patients who will more likely succeed. At the time, Za'Marrea was considered a risky patient because LaShunda was deemed unable to provide the support her daughter would need to recover after the operation. 

“They won’t even put her on the kidney transplant list because they said I don’t have a stable home,” LaShunda told The Post and Courier in 2018. “I’m trying to get a job, but it’s so hard because I have three kids. I have to be at dialysis with Za’Marrea three days a week. I’m only one person.”

She worried her daughter was going to die without the operation. 

“They keep on saying if she doesn’t get on the donor list it’s going to be possible death,” LaShunda said. “I’m running out of time.”

The Post and Courier published a front-page story about the Pugh family on Thanksgiving Day in 2018. The community's response to the family's plight was overwhelming. Strangers donated thousands of dollars to LaShunda. She fielded several job offers. J.D. Byrider gave her a car. 

A few months later, she told the newspaper that she was working three jobs and looking for a place to live. 

"I got faith that it will come," she wrote in an email in March 2019. "(A)nd also zamarrea is going to be placed on the kidney list (I'm so excited) but the thing is she going to have to go to foster care for a year to make sure the first year of her getting a new kidney will not fail, I have to still go to medical appointments and all like I've been doing like before, like I said I will do anything for her."

LaShunda said Za'Marrea was eventually taken into state custody by the S.C. Department of Social Services and placed in a new home with a foster family. She received her kidney transplant last year. In a follow-up conversation a few months ago, LaShunda admitted that she continued to struggle. She wanted to regain custody of her daughter but didn't know how to make that happen. 

"I was wondering if you can help me find a place to stay," she wrote in an email in early December. "I'm having a hard time finding a place."

At the suggestion she try reaching out to Trident United Way or North Charleston Family Ministries, she replied on Dec. 11, "Thank you so much for the info!"

That was the last time she contacted the newspaper. On Tuesday, the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office reported that Pugh was stabbed by another woman in the neck after she attempted to break into the woman's apartment on Pidgeon Bay Road in Summerville. The woman who stabbed Pugh told police she acted in self-defense. She has not been charged with a crime. 

LaShunda Pugh was pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon at Trident Medical Center. 

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.

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