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Mother: ‘I feel blessed.’ Daughter donates her kidney

Mother: ‘I feel blessed.’ Daughter donates her kidney

Her mother brought her into this world, 46 years ago, and recently this woman gave her mother the gift of life.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

She’s a grandma who loves her family. Misty Wheeler wanted her mother to watch those grandchildren grow up.

Five years ago, Cheryl Fox was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) a genetic disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow on the kidneys. Over time, they damage the kidneys. Fox’s mother also had PKD and received a kidney transplant. Her son has also been diagnosed. She was on dialysis for about two months.

Misty Wheeler and mother

On Nov. 30, 2022, Wheeler, a nurse at IU Health White Memorial Hospital became a living kidney donor to her mother. Both women live in Winamac, Ind. and were in the care of the transplant team at IU Health University Hospital.

According to Donate Life Indiana, more than 100,000 men, women and children nationally are waiting at any given moment for a lifesaving organ transplant. More than 1,000 of those waiting are Hoosiers. Last year 4.2 million Hoosiers signed up to be organ donors; 276 organ donors saved the lives of others needing lifesaving transplants, 949 lifesaving organs were transplanted to recipients.

At IU Health, many recipients receive kidney and liver transplants from living donors.

Living kidney donors help give renewed health to people experiencing kidney failure. Living donors reduce or eliminate the need for patients to start dialysis and a healthy kidney from a living donor can function better and last longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.

A living kidney donor isn’t necessarily related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type and tissue typing. Age and size are also taken into consideration. If a healthy donor is incompatible with the intended recipient, the donor may opt to be part of paired donation. Also known as “donor swap” recipient /donor pairs are matched according to compatibility. Over the years, IU Health’s kidney transplant team has performed a number of paired donations. Some chains have included multiple people.

“She kind of did it behind my back,” said Fox , 69, of her daughter’s decision to be tested as a match. “I feel blessed that she would even consider it.”

Wheeler, 46, has been a nurse since 2002. She has been married, to her husband Gabe for 22 years and is the mother to three children. She knows how important it is to her children to have their grandmother in their lives.

In all, Fox has six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

“You should have seen the waiting room on transplant day. Mom has three siblings who were all there and my kids too. My husband was completely panicked,” said Wheeler. Family means everything to Wheeler and Fox. Last year they celebrated a wedding, college and high school graduations and the birth of two babies.

Fox said she feels great and is thankful for her renewed health. She enjoys Sunday family dinners, spending time with her grandchildren, and cheering for the Colts and Purdue sports. She also enjoys regular coffee runs and cruising around Bass Lake with her long-time companion, in their maroon ’57 Chevy.

“I love my family. I love my grandkids and I just feel blessed,” said Fox.

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