Carrie and Susan: A Living Donor Transplant Story | Ascension

Carrie and Susan: A Living Donor Transplant Story

Initially connected by their desire to serve others, past neighbors, and mothers with children around the same age, Susan Cox and Carrie Schlehuber are now also connected through The Ascension St. John Kidney Transplant Program.

Pregnant with her third child, Carrie was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a disease mostly genetically inherited, in 2003. PKD becomes progressively more painful for patients until they likely require dialysis or a kidney transplant from fluid-filled sacs, known as cysts, developing and growing in the kidneys.

Patients requiring a kidney transplant have two options: they can either be placed on a waitlist for a deceased donor transplant or can receive a kidney from a living donor. Living donor kidneys are the best option for patients, as they help avoid wait times and provide longer average graft survivals.

Over 100,000 patients in the United States are waiting for a kidney donation according to the National Kidney Foundation.

The average wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three to five years. A patient waiting for a transplant usually requires dialysis.

However, the average wait time on the list for deceased donor kidney transplants at Ascension St. John is 22 months.

Ascension St. John provides approximately 60-80 transplants per year.

Carrie did her best to keep her condition private and lived many years without issues. However, about three years ago, her condition began to deteriorate, and eventually she reached a point where she spent a family vacation in a wheelchair. In 2017, her kidney function dropped below 20 percent, so it was time to begin transplant testing.

Once Susan learned Carrie's disease state was about to require dialysis, Susan explains she felt the Lord was calling her to get tested to determine if she could donate a kidney to Carrie.

Susan, an advocate against human trafficking, worked at a shelter that did not offer health insurance at the time, and she was about to receive her first grandchild. "My family was nervous at first, but I told them, 'the Lord says to obey. I need your support. Imagine if I was Carrie.'"

Susan encourages everyone to consider becoming a live donor. "I have no regrets. My quality of life is the same. The process was easy. Ascension St. John surgeons and staff cared for me like I was their family," says Susan. "St. John has built a team that loves and respects patients like their own family. They did not hurry me through appointments, always answered my calls, were flexible with my schedule, and truly cared."

"Before I went into the operating room, I told one of the nurses I was a scared," recalls Susan. "The whole team stopped, including the anesthesiologist, and prayed for me in the hallway. I went home two days later with very little pain."

When asked what the most rewarding part of donating her kidney was, Susan explained, "God used me to further his kingdom. Carrie impacts numerous youth as a teacher and at church. I'm grateful I was able to play a small role in helping heal her."

When asked what she would like others to know about kidney donation, Susan says, "Just give it a try. Just get tested. It's not a commitment. It won't impact your work." "They're flexible with appointments and it's an accommodating process. They will not beg you. This is a personal decision--and they respect that," says Susan. "For me, it was following what the Lord called me to do. You go where He tells you to go--so you obey. Someone out there needs you."

"I'm thankful for Susan and the Ascension St. John Kidney Transplant Team for saving my life," says Carrie. "I will always be grateful for Susan's sacrifice and the quality of care I received at Ascension St. John. They are all like my family--the surgeons, nurses, phlebotomists, everyone on the team--they will take care of you."