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Four people make connection through living kidney donation

IU Health University Hospital

Four people make connection through living kidney donation

Sometimes, it only takes one person to start a chain of events that can lead to the gift of life. In this case, there were two people who donated their kidneys to strangers.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes,

On a recent video call, Jeffrey “Jeff” Schrecongost first looked puzzled. He saw the face of Emily McIntire, his dialysis nurse. He knew her but he wasn’t sure why she would be on a phone call where he met his kidney donor.

That same phone call introduced Schrecongost to Jane Fuqua. With the help of IU Health transplant coordinator and living donor advocate Ariane Weir, the puzzle was quickly solved.

McIntire, of Muncie has been a dialysis nurse for 12 years. She has a natural compassion for her patients living with kidney disease.

“It was always in the back of my mind to become a kidney donor. When Jeff needed a kidney I decided ‘I can’t save them all, but maybe I can help one,’” said McIntire, 42. When it turned out that she wasn’t a match for Schrecongost, she decided to go forward as a kidney donor through paired donation. Her kidney went to Evan Ratney, a 21-year-old Gary, Ind. resident.

At the same time, Fuqua, of Zionsville became a non-directed donor. She wasn’t donating her kidney to a specific person; she just knew someone would need her kidney. That person was Schrecongost.

On June 11, Schrecongost received a new kidney.

Fuqua, 60, is the mother to three adult sons. She and her husband, Jack, celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary on the same day she donated her kidney. She first learned of the need for living donors from a presentation by the National Kidney Foundation.

According to Donate Life America, about 100,000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant.

“When I heard those numbers I thought, ‘it’s been a rough few years for this country and this world. I can’t solve everything but maybe I can solve one thing for one person,’” said Fuqua. “I think I have always been influenced by my parents and their giving hearts – always trying to find ways to help others. My father was an attorney who practiced in the inner city and was always helping the underdog,” she added. Throughout her life, Fuqua has followed her parent’s teachings by volunteering to help others.

IU Health Dr. Chandru Sundaram performed her surgery on a Friday and she was home Saturday night.

“He could not have been better – so kind. He sat me down before surgery and reminded me that I was handing myself over as a healthy person to him and explained the process thoroughly,” said Fuqua.

Both Schrecongost and Ratney were in the care of Dr. William Goggins during their transplant surgeries. Ratney received his new kidney on July 12. A graduate of Gary’s Westside Leadership Academy his health began to deteriorate after he was diagnosed with lupus. The inflammatory disease caused his immune system to turn on his body. Along with pain and fatigue, the disease took its toll on his kidneys. He began dialysis and was listed for a kidney transplant.

With his eye on college and studying graphic design, Ratney said he doesn’t have the words to thank McIntire.

“I didn’t know Evan until I walked into his room. Since I was willing to give my kidney to someone in need I looked at it like getting a fast pass at Disney. My kidney went to Evan, and Jeff still got a match,” said McIntire.

It wasn’t until the recent video call that Schrecongost, who turned 53 this month, realized that McIntire had been tested as his donor. When he was introduced to Fuqua, he was doubly surprised by the chain of events that lead to his kidney transplant.

A college English teacher, Schrecongost was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and Stage 3 kidney disease in 2017.

“I was one of those guys who didn’t go to the doctor a lot. When I did, I learned of my diagnosis through blood work,” said Schrecongost, of Muncie. By 2019 he was on dialysis and that’s when he met McIntire.

“She eventually became my main dialysis nurse. I needed iron and blood work weekly so I got to know her because she was the one stabbing my arm,” said Schrecongost. When it was revealed to him that McIntire had become a kidney donor on his behalf, Schrecongost said he was floored.

“It’s frustrating in a way, because I can’t find the adequate words to express the gratitude I feel toward both Jane and Emily,” said Schrecongost. Since his surgery he says he’s shocked at how great he feels and how quickly he recovered. He’s looking forward to hiking, camping, and traveling out west.

“I guess the best way to show my gratitude is to take great care of myself and live my best life,” said Schrecongost.

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