a Wednesday morning five summers ago, Mary Schneiderís bed at
Froedtert Hospital was rolled into a surgical holding area. Nearby was
another bed where Schneiderís sister, Amy Sanner, lay waiting for
the biggest day of their lives.
about to receive Sannerís left kidney.
feeling bad when they were putting my IV in, that I had to go through
it," remembers Sanner. "Iím like, ĎItís all right,
Mare, itís OK.í"
By dayís end,
Schneider had ó for the first time in 12 years ó a fully
hearing her voice in the recovery room and thinking that we both made
it through surgery," says Sanner. "It was a great
In 2006, the
year Schneider received her new kidney, there were 184 transplants
from living donors performed in Wisconsin. Thatís about one-fourth
of all transplants that took place in the state that year.
donor is a good thing," says Schneider, who lives in Brookfield.
health problems since the mid í90s, when tests during two
pregnancies revealed protein in her urine. The problem was focal
segmental glomerulosclerosis, a gradual scarring in the filtering
portion of both kidneys. The cause was unknown.
Sanner, a St.
Joseph Hospital surgical nurse who lives in Mequon, routinely
accompanied her sister to the doctor as, despite medication, the
prognosis worsened. At age 32, Schneider was told a transplant
eventually would be necessary.
"We were in
the parking lot after one of my appointments and I said, ĎI canít
believe Iím going to need a kidney,í and she said, ĎIím going
to give you one of mine,í just so matter-of-fact," says
one of 52 Wisconsin patients who received an organ from a full sibling
in 2006. Genetically speaking, only 25 percent of such donors are a
perfect match, according to Dr. Christopher Johnson, Froedtert &
The Medical College of Wisconsin transplant surgeon.
Sanner was a
half-match, but she was an ideal donor because she was healthy and
motivated, and she was confident in her decision. Neither of the womenís
two brothers were possible donors, and their parents were deceased.
such a strong person," says Schneider. "I put my trust in
God and her. When someone is willing to do this for you, you just put
your trust in them."
finding her own donor in time, Schneider was able to avoid dialysis,
which usually is administered three times a week, and improve her
"To be on
dialysis two, three or five years, the reality is the patient just isnít
as healthy as if they had been transplanted sooner," says
Johnson, who performed Schneiderís surgery.
Johnson, there is a great need for kidney donors. As of early June,
1,541 of the 1,928 Wisconsinites on the organ transplant list were
waiting for a kidney. "Every year, more people are put on a
waiting list to get a kidney transplant than actually get a
transplant," he explains. "So, at the end of the year, youíve
got more people waiting than there were at the beginning of the
kidneys can come from an unrelated donor ó sometimes, a so-called
altruistic donor whoís never even met the patient. Kidney donors can
be 18 to 65 years old. At the time she donated her kidney, Sanner was
41; Schneider was 39.
pre-transplant workup took about two months, starting with
blood-typing for compatibility and other factors, plus blood pressure
testing, CT scans and X-rays. Doctors had to be sure the kidney Sanner
was keeping was healthy enough to sustain her.
surgery, Sanner spent five days in the hospital and was off work six
weeks. As the recipient, Schneider needed a couple more daysí
recovery in the hospital. Because she was a teacher and the transplant
took place in late June, she didnít need time off work.
The night after
the operation, Schneider became claustrophobic. The one person who
could calm her was her sister, so staff woke up Sanner at 4 a.m., and
brought Schneider to her room. The women just knew theyíd be leaning
on one another during recuperation. "The joke was who was going
to get to whose room first," says Schneider. During their
hospitalization, the two sisters who once biked across the state
together walked the halls and talked.
receive a kidney from a living donor survive an average of 10 years
longer than those who get one from a deceased donor, notes Johnson.
great bond between any two people, to give a kidney and allow someone
to live an extra number of years they might not have had,"
Johnson adds. "You canít assume people can just wait on a list
and get a kidney."
Both women are
healthy today, enjoying their families, jobs and hobbies.
their relationship hasnít changed ó itís always been close.
"Sheís a lot of fun and celebrates life, and has a deep faith.
Sheís a really strong person," she says.
As for Sanner,
after giving her sister a kidney, she gets the last laugh. "I
never have to buy her a gift again," she quips. "Iím set
for birthdays and Christmases." M