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June 11, 2021

Riley nurse tests for kidney match for brother

IU Health University Hospital

Riley nurse tests for kidney match for brother

Riley Hospital Nurse Samantha “Sam” Schubert is passionate about kidney donation – so passionate that she wants others to know about the process. This story is the first in a series that follows Schubert’s younger brother through his journey to organ transplantation.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

Her career is based on a nurturing spirit. So it’s no surprise that outside the hospital, Pediatric Nurse Samantha “Sam” Schubert extends that trait to her loved ones.

“Growing up all I ever wanted to be was a nurse. It’s a privilege to be able to make a difference in someone else’s life,” said Schubert, who has been with IU Health Riley Hospital for Children for five years. One of her 16-year-old ER patients once wrote in a surprise compliment: “Sam made one of the most painful days of my life, the most memorable. She makes every patient feel special and is an example of what every nurse should be.”

IU Health's Danielle Wager conducting a CT scan for Schubert

Recently, that kindness led Schubert to the aid of her brother, Jose Silva, and to the process of kidney donation. Last month, IU Health radiology technologist Danielle Wagner, conducted a CT scan in what Schubert thought would be one of the final steps in determining her compatibility for donation. But days after the scan she was diagnosed with horseshoe kidney, a congenital anomaly. She could no longer be considered a donor.

Schubert said a follow up visit with her doctor indicated it is unlikely she will have complications, but she will continue with annual check ups.

“The donor process changed my life, making me aware of the need for transplants and how it can affect someone’s life,” said Schubert, 28. So her journey continues – helping educate others about the process of becoming a living kidney donor.

Silva, who is 13 months younger than Schubert, was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) two years ago. FSGS is 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. Silva first learned he had health issues when he tested his blood pressure at a retail store site.

In January of 2019 he was admitted to the hospital for abnormal blood work that indicated a potential kidney function decline. The four days that followed included monitoring, more blood work and a kidney biopsy. A week later he learned he had chronic kidney disease.

“Everyone responds differently. Some decline quickly and some slower,” Silva wrote. “My numbers have been steadily declining for the last two years. The second week in May he learned he has Stage 5 kidney disease. He needs 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.

Schubert and Silva

Through social media, Schubert and Silva are alerting others to more facts about those awaiting transplant: “The average wait time for a kidney transplant is three to five years; every ten minutes a person is added to the transplant list, a kidney transplant is used to treat end stage renal disease, and living donation often allows the recipient to receive a kidney faster.”

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.

Schubert knew her blood type O was compatible with Silva’s. Through previous tests she learned that she was a healthy and viable donor.

“Going through the process saved my life by making me aware of my diagnosis. Now I can be monitored,” said Schubert. “It also made me aware of how important it is to educate others about the process.”

A transplant coordinator helped navigate Schubert through the testing. She also worked with a living donor advocate and a social worker. “There is a full team behind you. They always have your best interest in mind. Your health is their highest priority,” said Schubert. “It is a commitment, but the most rewarding process I have ever been able to do. Donation saves lives and to be able to provide an organ for someone else is amazing. I was completely devastated when I found out I could no longer donate to my brother. When I started this process, I knew in my heart I was willing to donate to anyone who needed a transplant.”

As Silva waits to find a donor, he is in the care of IU Health transplant nephrologist Dr. Asif Sharfuddin. His family is using social media to create awareness, asking others to share his need.

“I am graciously asking for everyone’s help,” wrote Silva. “If you feel you want to sign up to go through the process. Please do. If you want to share my posts. Please do. Every share, every application, every prayer is one step closer to changing my life for the better. I will be grateful for each one. Your generosity can never be repaid and I will be forever grateful for your consideration in this process.”

Find out more about living kidney donation.

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If facing end-stage organ failure, a kidney, pancreas, liver, lung, intestine or heart transplant will help you embrace life again.