Chance Conversation Leads To Women Donating Kidneys To Save Each Other’s Husbands

Chance Conversation Leads To Women Donating Kidneys To Save Each Other’s Husbands

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

No matter how many times we attempt to rationalize a chance encounter with logical and plausible explanations, there’s that feeling tucked deep inside of us that divine intervention perhaps played a decisive hand in those unscripted random run ins.

Take the chance encounter by two co-workers employed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, for example. For decades they worked within the same department, hardly speaking to each other other than an occasional greeting as they passed one another during the course of a workday.

On one August afternoon, both Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis found themselves in the woman’s bathroom getting ready to leave for the day. This wasn’t unusual, as they would usually greet each other with a smile and continue washing their hands. However, on this particular day, one of them began discussing what both of them had in common; their spouse’s need for a kidney transplant. With nearly 100,000 individuals currently on the national waiting list, both women knew of the others plight in finding a suitable donor. 

The casual chat between the two women took a turn for the better when Wimbush asked Ellis what her husband’s blood type was

He’s type O,” Ellis replied.

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Wimbush responded that her husband’s blood type was AB.

The women paused a moment, staring at one another, attempting to process what the other had just said. Then they began to realize that they may have stumbled on a match that could save both their husband’s lives. Wimbush thought she might be a match for Ellis’s husband, and she thought Ellis could be a match for hers.

I told Susan, ‘Wait a second, what are the odds that we’re both going through this with our husbands at the same time and we could also be in a position to help them?’” Wimbush recalled. “That’s when we both knew: We had to get tested.” 

The two immediately took antibody tests to see if they were a match, and miraculously enough, they were.

Seven months after their encounter in the bathroom, Wimbush donated one of her kidneys to Lance Ellis, 41, and Susan Ellis donated one of hers to Rodney Wimbush, 45.

Both successful transplants were performed in March at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. All four have recovered nicely, without any complications.

After the operation, Wimbush recounted, “They’ve each gained the gift of health and more years, it’s wonderful to see how they now have quality of life after so many years of dialysis treatments.”

Lance Ellis acknowledged he hadn’t realized just how sick he had become until he came out of his transplant surgery and his new kidney took over. “I mean, as soon as you wake up from surgery, it’s like hitting a light switch,” Lance said. “You feel amazing. You’re ready to go for a run.”

Tia Wimbush says the experience was powerful. “I felt exhilarated,” she recalls. “I felt exhilarated because of what we had done, because I was able to donate my kidney to Lance, and just the magnificence of God, if you will.

Christina Klein, a nephrologist and medical director of Piedmont’s kidney transplant program, said it is extremely rare for two people to propose their own paired organ exchange and actually be a match for each other.

I’ve personally never seen this happen,” Klein said. “When we put pairs into large databases for national paired exchange programs, some pairs wait months or even years for a compatible match.”

Sometimes those chance encounters we stake for granted feel all too often like divine intervention.