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A December anniversary to remember: Wife donates kidney to husband

IU Health University Hospital

A December anniversary to remember: Wife donates kidney to husband

They met in college, were married last December and before their first anniversary, this husband and wife were sharing a kidney.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He’s been healthy most of his life. A graduate of Frankfort’s Clinton Prairie High School, Jose Silva was active in football and track. He was born with a blockage in his right kidney and had regular screenings at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

But by the time he entered college at UIndy, things seemed normal. He moved full speed ahead on a career path to becoming an athletic trainer. It was during his freshman year that he met Laykin Collins. They were housed in the same dorm and had a lot of mutual friends. Laykin was studying occupational therapy, so they found they had a lot in common.

The couple enjoyed watching movies, playing pool and Ping-Pong and going out to eat. Life was good. Silva graduated and started his career. Then in January 2019, after testing his blood pressure at a retail store, Silva learned he had health issues.

He was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) a rare disease that attacks the filtering units of the kidney and causes a build up of scar tissue that leads to kidney damage and failure.

By the second week in May 2021 he learned he had Stage 5 kidney disease. Silva, 27, needed a kidney transplant.

The Indiana Donor Network reports that as of February 2021, there were 91,319 people in the United States awaiting a kidney transplant. There are 873 Indiana residents awaiting transplant and in 2020, there were 857 people who received organ transplants as a result of 252 organ donors.

At first, Silva’s older sister, Samantha Schubert, a pediatric nurse at Riley Hospital, was tested as a donor. Days after a CT scan she was diagnosed with horseshoe kidney, a congenital anomaly. She could no longer be considered a donor. The search for a viable kidney donor continued.

As they waited, Silva and Collins planned to be married. They were working against a pandemic and Silva’s failing kidneys. On December 3, 2020, in the company of about 60 family members and friends the couple exchanged vows at The Nest Event Center in Greenwood. There was no honeymoon. They were taking precautions with Silva’s failing health. He was in the advance stages of kidney failure.

As they waited for a transplant, Silva pursued his career, working as an athletic trainer for Honda Manufacturing, Greensburg, Ind. Meanwhile, his wife began thinking seriously about becoming a living donor.

Living kidney donors do not need to be related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type (ABO) and tissue typing. Age and size are also taken into consideration. If blood types are incompatible, there are other options to match a donated kidney with someone in need of transplant. Potential donors undergo psychological and medical evaluations that include blood tests, chest x-rays, urine tests, an EKG and/or stress test and a CT scan.

“After we learned his sister was not a match we sat down and talked about it and we evaluated the risks. He was agreeable to let me go through the process,” said Laykin. The first hurdle they tackled was learning they are the same blood type - O positive. Each test that followed, matched the newlyweds as donor and recipient.

“Initially I didn’t want a family member donating but our family does a lot with each other so it was a no brainer for my sister to be tested. She was crushed when she found out she couldn’t be a donor,” said Silva, who has two younger siblings. “It humbled me to realize I can’t do this alone. I needed help from the community, my friends and family members. I was initially against my wife getting tested but I knew I’d do the same for her,” he said.

By August, Silva was on dialysis. Shortly afterward, they learned that his wife was going to be his donor. On October 20, Laykin was in one operating room at IU Health University Hospital and Silva was nearby. Under the care of Dr. William Goggins, Silva received a life-saving organ from his wife.

“My biggest take away is not to be too scared. When you’re going through the process there’s a lot of information to take in but the testing is thorough and you have to remember that it’s a life-changing opportunity for someone,” said Laykin.

In the months since surgery, Silva has had more energy. The couple enjoys hiking and spending time outside with their two dogs. They hope to eventually plan that honeymoon.

On October 24, when Laykin was released from the hospital Silva wrote:

“My wife is such a blessing in my life that I will never be able to thank her enough. She’s such a selfless person willing to go through such a tough surgery to improve my quality of life. Yes, I will still have restrictions due to my meds, but to hear the doctor tell me this morning “eat whatever you want” is something I never expected to hear. Something so small to a healthy person is such a big deal to a kidney patient. I’ll forever be a kidney patient, but at this time in my life I’m a kidney patient with much better outcomes. I’m going to live life to the fullest, thank God every day, and be forever grateful to my wife for being the selfless blessing in my life. We are so thankful and have so much love for each and every one of you that lifted us up in prayers and thoughts. Lastly, we want to thank our families for helping us through this time. From taking care of our house, mowing the grass, watching our pets, to pushing us in the hospital to get better. Hug your loved ones, thank them, and be grateful for everything they do for you. Life is too short to not show love to people. 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”

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