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Two pancreas transplants; one kidney transplant; 19,562 syringes; five surgeries in 10 days . . . those are the numbers Jill Dietz recites at her husband’s bedside. He had been out of surgery just a few hours when Andrew Dietz offered up another number: Three.
“I wish I had three kidneys because I’d donate two,” said Andrew “Andy” Dietz” Captain of the Fishers Police Department. But on a recent December afternoon, Dietz was recovering from a single donation – a donation that would touch not just the life of his wife, but many.
Through The Advanced Donation Program (ADP), Andy Dietz was able to donate his kidney to the National Kidney Registry, making it available to another patient. In turn, his wife was added to the registry and another kidney becomes available when she needs a transplant. IU Health is the only healthcare system in Indiana with an advanced donation program for living kidney donors – and one of less than 10 in the United States.
Jill doesn’t know exactly when she will need a transplant but she knows it’s only a matter of time. February is the four-year mark since she was given the news of her impaired kidney function – a symptom of a disease that started years before. She was seven when her mom recognized the signs of diabetes.
“I was grouchy before meals which meant low blood sugar and I would fall asleep on the couch watching TV which was a sign of high blood sugar. My mom watched her younger brother go through diabetes so she knew the signs and symptoms,” said Jill, who has taken insulin injections most of her life. Her parents saved the syringes and created a piece of art with her name – 19,562 shots.
In 2006 she received two pancreas transplants and one kidney transplant. Her body rejected both pancreas transplants. She was admitted to IU Health for 21 days and had five surgeries. Eight years later, Andy wanted to donate a kidney to his wife, but her body had developed antibodies that were attacking her husband’s blood type. Since timing was off and the kidney also wouldn’t be a good match, they chose the route of advanced donation.
“There are two big advantages to this program, it’s faster and it’s a living donor,” said Andy. “We’ve had a relationship with IU Health for 15 years and these people are top notch. We have a lot of confidence in the whole program. The doctors and nurses will do whatever they can do for us. We’re in the best hands that we can be.”
Andy’s only disappointment was that he couldn’t give his kidney directly to his wife three years ago.
“He’s quite a humble man with a huge giving heart. His greatest desire is to bring awareness to the Advanced Donor Program. To let people know anyone can be a donor,” said Jill. “He keeps saying that right about now someone else is getting his kidney and a new chance at life. This is a gift that I just want to keep thanking him for,” said Jill who was 13 when she first met Andy at a church in Carmel where his father was a pastor. He was a year older.
“My mom invited his family over for Easter dinner and I knew right then and there I’d marry him. I remember everything about those early years,” said Jill. Their first date was a year later when Andy took Jill to a Homecoming Dance. And the first gift he ever got her was a stuffed dog she named “Snuggles.”
Jill has taken the dog with her through 29 surgeries and on this recent December day there was a new number – one. It was the first time “Snuggles” had been there for Andy’s surgery.
“She’s my best friend. We’ve grown up together,” he said. “Donating my kidney was a no brainer.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.