Childhood friends celebrate anniversary of kidney donation and transplant
Sandy Henry made a full recovery within six weeks of donating her kidney. And today, on the anniversary of her kidney transplant, her friend June Edwards leads a full and healthy life.
A year ago today, on April 6, 2021, Sandy Henry woke up in a Mayo hospital bed. Her doctor came in and let her know that the operation had gone well.
“She said, ‘Sandy, you gave June a perfect kidney. It was just music to my ears. It was a powerful thing to hear,” says Henry.
June Edwards is Henry’s childhood friend. Both women are 1973 graduates of Central Andes High School.
“We took all our lessons together. I did so many things – music and cheerleading and all kinds of things together during those years,” says Sandy Henry.
“Yeah, extracurriculars. We all volunteered for everything,” Edwards says.
June Edwards was the second voice you heard.
After high school, the friends went to the University of South Dakota together. But they took different majors. And as often happens with high school friends, Henry and Edwards have gone their separate ways.
Henry pursued a college teaching career in Sioux Falls. Edwards became a family practice nurse practitioner in Alexandria, Minnesota.
Then a few years ago, the two friends reconnected. They started chatting almost daily through Facebook Messenger.
“I can’t even describe this connection. The feeling of reconnecting with June. It was just that feeling of home. I looked forward to our conversations each evening,” says Henry.
It was during one of their evening conversations that Henry learned from another high school friend who joined the thread that Edwards needed a kidney.
“It’s called polycystic kidney disease and it causes cysts to form in the kidneys. They invade normal kidney tissue and eventually the kidneys don’t work well enough and you need a transplant. And in our family, it’s around 65. And that’s exactly when I needed a transplant,” Edwards says.
After hearing about her friend’s needs, Sandy Henry knew she would donate her kidney.
“It was like that flash of ‘you can do it,'” Henry says.
Sure enough, after tests and a thorough medical examination, doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined that Henry was healthy enough to donate a kidney. And his kidney matched Edwards.
“Sandy called me one day and said, ‘We’re compatible. We are going to do it. She was the only person who said, “I’m going to give you a kidney,” Edwards said.
And being the age that we are, and being healthy enough to give me one, for us to be up to it, is kind of a miracle. … There aren’t even words I can put to that. … Sandy kept saying, “it’s meant to be.”
“I knew it would work,” Henry said.
“I’m a little in tears right now,” Edwards says.
“Me too,” said Henry.
For June Edwards, matching with a living donor is important, says Mayo transplant surgeon Mikel Prieto.
“The advantages of doing it with a living donor are, first of all, you get a good, healthy organ from a person who is alive. The transplant is done immediately from a living person. Also, you don’t don’t have to wait five to seven years. As soon as you have a donor who is ready to donate a kidney to you, we can schedule the transplant and in a few weeks you will have a new kidney. This is basically a benefit vital for many, many people. And like the story of June and Sandy, it’s just a wonderful thing to do and it changes someone’s life,” says Prieto.
Dr. Prieto adds that even if a donor kidney is not a match, having a willing living donor means that someone in need of a kidney does not have to wait for a transplant.
“Matching is less and less important these days because we donate a lot of pairs of kidneys, which means we swap kidneys. In other words, if Sandy’s kidney wouldn’t have been a good match for June, we could have used Sandy’s kidney for someone else. But it would allow June to get a transplant,” Prieto says.
Sandy Henry understands the impact her donated kidney has on her friend’s quality of life. However, she says donating a kidney also had a profound impact on her life.
“I’ve said it many times but I feel like I’m the one on the receiving end of it… I’d say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for someone and how much I received to be able to help my friend,” said Henri.
To learn more about Donate Life Month, visit https://www.donatelife.net/ndlm/