Date of Birth: 4/20/1964
Date of Organ Donation: 8/20/2019
Organ Donation story:
I have known the person I donated to for over 40 years. We grew up in Pike County, Illinois and were friends through high school and after but had not spent a lot of time together in many years.
Mike and his wife Teresa were living in the St. Louis area and my husband Bob and I were living just outside of Jacksonville in Arcadia. Our 25th wedding anniversary party in August of 2015 brought us all back together again and something just clicked.
It was the start of many fun adventures together including weekend trips, vacations and them supporting my husband’s drag racing weekends. Little did we know then that our reconnection had truly been meant to be for so many reasons!
In the fall of 2017, they sat us down to let us know that Mike’s health was declining and that due to his diabetes, his kidneys were failing. He was going to have to start dialysis and would eventually need a kidney transplant. The best option for a kidney transplant is a living donor, so the hunt started to find one and Mike started dialysis.
It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to get tested to see if I could be a candidate. When I talked to Bob he also wanted to get tested, so we started the process in early 2018. Unfortunately, my husband was ruled out on the first call because he had several kidney stones in his lifetime, but I kept moving on through the process as a match for Mike. The testing process took quite a long time and unfortunately, we had a few setbacks — I got a nasty infection that put me in the hospital for a few days and stalled the process for about six months.
Then we decided to switch hospitals and transplant teams and went to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis in January of 2019. Mike and I both had some specific goals we had to meet to get a transplant date set and in May of 2019, we were finally able to set the date for August 20th and celebrate! We had so much love and support from all our friends and family as the months passed getting closer to our date.
The day before the transplant my husband, Bob, daughter Beth and I, along with two of our dearest friends, Renae Graham and Lewis Freed, headed to St. Louis to meet the Ehlert family (Mike, Teresa, and their two sons, Jacob and Dalton) for our pre-transplant dinner celebration.
The next morning, we headed to the hospital around 4 a.m. with more friends and family arriving to support us and the celebration continued with one last hands in “let’s go” before we headed off for surgery. A couple more pictures from the hospital are included as well.
The surgery itself was pretty easy on me, typically the kidney donated is your left, but I donated my right because it had a cyst about the same size as my kidney, which was removed and then placed in Mike and it started working right away! A couple of nights in the hospital and I was on my way back home to Jacksonville. Honestly, knee replacement surgery was harder than donating a kidney.
Mike and I are both still doing great and going strong. We had planned a one-year kidney-versary celebration trip to Ireland and Spain in the fall of 2020, but COVID changed that and instead we spent a week on the beach in Florida. Overall, this was a truly amazing experience that changed friends into family forever!
Any other information you wish to share about Organ Donation:
Being a living donor is one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to donate mine to Mike! People are always looking for their purpose and I truly believe it was part of my life’s purpose to do this. If our story can convince even one person to become a donor and save a life, we would be forever grateful. A staggering 5,000 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant and another 5,000 are taken off the transplant list because they are no longer healthy enough to receive a transplant. Almost everyone only needs one kidney to live a perfectly normal and healthy life so please people –share your spare — it could totally change someone’s life! Not everyone is as lucky as we were to be a direct match, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of a paired match or exchange. How could anyone pass up a chance to save someone else’s life — Donate Life — Share your Spare — become a kidney donor!