The COVID-19 pandemic has put life as we knew it on hold for more than a year, but as things finally settle back into a new normal, people are returning to the workplace. For two co-workers catching up during a chance encounter, swapping news serendipitously turned into a life-saving exchange.
Susan Ellis and Tia Wimbush both work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Ironically, both Tia’s husband, Rodney, and Susan’s husband, Lance, were on a waiting list for kidney transplants.
As the two compared notes talking over the ups and downs of their husbands’ conditions, the subject of blood types came up. Thanks to a piece of random information, the women suddenly realized they might be potential donor matches for the other’s husband.
“My thought immediately was that we could help each other and stop the suffering of two families,” Tia told Good Morning America. “I called Rodney immediately and he and I were both just committed to moving forward and trying to help two families.”
When the tests were run, it turned out Tia and Susan were indeed matches made in heaven for one another’s husbands. Both wives were granted donor approval last October, but before the December surgeries could be performed, Lance suffered a setback and had to be hospitalized.
Once his condition was stable, the procedures were rescheduled for January. Then Susan tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced into a mandatory quarantine. The procedures were postponed again.
After Susan got the all-clear, the operations were rescheduled, this time for March 19th.
As the old saying goes, the third time was the charm, and both transplants were successful. The couples convalesced in close proximity on the same hospital floor, visiting each other as soon as they were able.
While Tia and Susan’s downtime was a little more protracted than they’d originally envisioned, Lance and Rodney’s marked postoperative improvement more than made up for any short-term discomfort they might have felt.
The two thankful husbands, freed from hours of crippling dialysis, are looking forward to spending many happy years of quality times with their loved ones—which now includes their extended “kidney families.”
“Our story is a story of kindness. It ended up in a kidney exchange, that was the result of it, but it started with human beings just human beings and checking on each other,” Susan told GMA. “We’re so busy with social media and texting and thinking, that’s not my business that we can self-isolate and we don’t check in on our neighbors.”
In addition to reminding folks to reach out to one another on a human level, both families hope their story will inspire others to think about being living transplant donors. You can learn more about the process at organdonor.gov.
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