Susan Ellis and Tia Wimbush, two employees at Children’s Healthcare Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, USA, had worked together for more than a decade and knew that their respective husbands needed a kidney transplant. However, it wasn’t until They met by chance in a hospital bathroom who had an idea that would change their lives.
During that encounter, which occurred last fall, they realized that Ellis had the same blood type as Wimbush’s husband, while Wimbush’s blood type was exactly the same as Ellis’s husband.
“I instantly thought that we could help each other and stop the suffering of two families,” commented Tia Wimbush on ‘Good Morning America’. “I called Rodney right away and he and I were committed to moving on.”
Rodney Wimbush is a high school teacher who was diagnosed with kidney failure in August 2019 and was placed on the kidney transplant waiting list the spring of the following year. The process was slowed down due to the covid-19 pandemic, which was gaining momentum in the country at that time.
On the other hand, Susan’s husband, Lance Ellis, also suffered from acute kidney failure in August 2019, after his body rejected the kidney that his own mother had donated years ago.
It didn’t take long for Susan and Tia to undergo the required tests to see if they could donate their organs to Lance and Rodney. Both were approved in October 2020.
“It was a relief to know that they were both going to have a better quality of life again,” Tia Wimbush said.
However, the road ahead still presented obstacles.
In December, Lance Ellis was hospitalized with complications from his acute kidney failure and the couples were forced to postpone transplants until January. However, a day before the surgery, Susan Ellis tested positive for covid-19, so the plans were canceled again.
“It was devastating,” stated Susan. “Lance was already in the hospital and they were preparing him. I had to spend ten days in quarantine in a hotel room.”
Finally, on March 19, the surgeries were carried out successfully. The two couples recovered on the same floor of the Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, in adjoining rooms.
“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, but I would definitely do it again,” Tia Wimbush said. “The feeling I had after the surgery is one that I can hardly describe, just the hope and joy I felt knowing that my kidney could be part of the process that helped two people have a better quality of life, after see what they’ve been through on their kidney disease journey. “
For his part, Rodney Wimbush assures that he already considers the Ellis as part of his own family.
“I care more about Lance than myself,” he said. “I will always be grateful to Susan for what she did.”
The brotherly bond that was forged between the couples is so strong that Tia and Susan call themselves “kidney sisters.”
“In the process, having someone else to talk to (…) on a real and transparent level about how we feel as wives, as women, as mothers, has been invaluable,” concluded Tia.
Couples hope that their story inspire more people to become living organ donors and to remind them how important it can be to stop for a moment and have a simple conversation.