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Car sticker: ‘My dad is in need of a kidney.’ He got one

IU Health University Hospital

Car sticker: ‘My dad is in need of a kidney.’ He got one

When his kidneys began to fail, Steve Sheckles’ daughter did what came naturally. She put a sticker on her car advertising for a donor. Someone recently responded and Sheckles has a new kidney.

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

From his hospital bed in the Transplant Unit of IU Health University Hospital, Steve Sheckles answers a question matter-of-factly: “Did you know your donor?” His answer: “I didn’t then but I sure do now.”

Organ recipients don’t often meet their donors prior to transplant or even right after transplant. Sheckles’ situation was unusual.

In 1992 Sheckles, a Centerville, Ind. resident, was treated for kidney stones and doctors diagnosed him with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). An inherited disorder the disease is characterized by the growth of cysts within the kidneys. Over time, the kidneys enlarge and lose function. All three of Sheckles' brothers and one sister have also been diagnosed with the disease. One brother had a transplant at IU Health in 2021, and another brother had a transplant in 2022.

Sheckles has been on dialysis for three years and hoping for a donor match. To help advertise that need, his daughter, Kim Murray, who lives in Lafayette, posted a sign on the back of her mini van: “My Dad is in Need of a Kidney.”

Sheckles, who has been married to his wife, Penny, for 48 years, is the father to three other children, Lisa Schunk, Sara Sheckles, and Brett Sheckles. He is the grandfather to five. As his condition became worse, Sheckles was in the care of IU Health’s Dr. Asif Sharfuddin, who specializes in nephrology and kidney disease.

“The dialysis made me tired and I didn’t have the energy to do the things I enjoy like church functions and Lions Club activities,” said Sheckles, who retired from Richmond Power and Light after 47 years.

Finally, the message on Murray’s mini van paid off. A Lafayette television station aired a story. That story was seen by Jennifer Trillingham, who had also spotted the van in her neighborhood. She lives less than a half mile from Murray.

Trillingham reached out to Murray on social media and said: “I know this is weird but I saw your van and the story on television and I’d like to donate my kidney to your dad and I pray I’m a match,” Murray relates.

The rest of the story unfolded with Trillingham completing all the pretesting to become a living kidney donor. When she found out she was a match, she reached out to Murray to see if she could meet Sheckles.

They came up with a plan to meet at a local Culver’s. Trillingham walked up to Sheckles, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m going to be your kidney donor.” They talked for four hours. On June 10, Sheckles was in the care of IU Health Dr. William Goggins when he received Trillingham’s kidney. The two couldn’t wait to see each other after surgery.

Sheckles tears up when asked what he said to his donor after surgery.

“I wanted to thank her and let her know how much I appreciate her,” he said. “Sometimes there just aren’t enough words.”

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