By fall of 2019, Lynn Stevens had almost given up hoping for the life-giving kidney transplant she needed. She was on the transplant list at Baylor Hospital in both Dallas and Fort Worth, but the prospects seemed bleak for the the clerk-treasurer for the City of Tatum.
Each night, Stevens hooked herself up to a machine that pumped fluid designed to cleanse impurities from her blood and allow her to work another day. The procedure, peritoneal dialysis, is a type of dialysis which uses the peritoneum in a person’s abdomen as the membrane through which fluid and dissolved substances are exchanged with the blood. It is used to remove excess fluid, correct electrolyte problems, and remove toxins in people with kidney failure.
“When the night was over,” Stevens said, “I went to work, went to the store and did whatever needed to be done. But every night, I had to be home to start the dialysis.”
Stevens, who was diagnosed with Stage 5 renal failure in 2013, was grateful that treatment she could do at home was available, but she was tired of the never-ending routine and the limitations it placed on her and her husband.
“I was sitting in my office at city hall one day in November of 2018 when a young woman, Crystal Weigel, stopped by my door and asked what my blood type was. I told her it was O positive and she said, ‘I hear you need a kidney. I want to donate a kidney to you.’ And after we got through crying, I told her how to get in touch with the hospital,” Stevens said.
Weigel, who is now the director of Tatum Public Library, said she heard “that Lynn was sick and she needed a kidney. I was at city hall and she was in her office, so I just popped in and asked her what blood type she was and I told her I was O positive and I wanted to give her a kidney. And she started crying and then she gave me the contact information.”
Receiving a kidney from a live donor requires both the donor and the donee to undergo a battery of tests to determine whether physical characteristics beyond blood type are compatible. The donor also has to meet with counselors and other advisors to determine the reasons for the desire to be a donor and to be sure he or she understands the procedures and the risks involved.
Stevens said the tests indicated that Weigel could be a donor and the two women began to work with Baylor Hospital in Fort Worth to find a date for the surgery.
“We were getting things set up,” Stevens said, “and then I had a cardiac event and had to have a stent placed in an artery and I had to wait six months to take a stress test before we could go through with the transplant. When I took the stress test, everything was alight and we began to look for a date again.”
On Oct. 18, they got the call asking if Nov. 6 would be a suitable date. Both women agreed they could make arrangements to be there. Those arrangements were made more complex because the hospital requires that the participants in the surgery have a third person with them during the procedure and recovery.
“My sister, Amber, went with me,” Weigel said. “Through the testing, through the surgery, through the recovery, she was there.”
Stevens recalled that on the day of the surgery, “They took Amber back first and took the kidney and cleaned it up and put it on ice and then they took me back and put the kidney in me. It began to work immediately and it’s been working ever since.”
Weigel left the hospital on Friday after the surgery, which took place on Wednesday. Steven was released from the hospital Saturday but remained in Fort Worth for three weeks so physicians could monitor her kidney function.
Weigel developed a blood clot in one leg and was ordered to “stay down,” but after promising her physician that she would not lift anything heavy and would limit her activities, she went back to work at the library three weeks after the surgery.
Stevens’ wound is requiring special treatment because it is not healing as rapidly as physicians had hoped.
“I’ve had a little trouble with the wound,” she said. “Intrepid Home Care comes three times a week to change the dressing. And I’m able to work. I have a laptop at home that’s connected to the computer at city hall. If there is anything that I’m needed for, the deputy clerk calls or texts me. I’ve got a lot of leave accrued and I’m taking it because I want to heal as soon as possible.”
Both Stevens and Weigel agreed that their meeting was “a God thing.”
Until the surgery, the women hardly knew each other.
“I saw her at the library, so I knew who she was,” Stevens said.
“And I had seen Lynn around,” Weigel said. “But we really didn’t know each other at all.”
“God’s hand was in it all the way,” Stevens said.
“I was raised to help people,” Weigel said. “ I had a kidney and she needed it. My family supported my decision and I feel blessed to help Lynn live a full life.”
“What a Thanksgiving!” Stevens said. “And what a Christmas gift!”