Ind. woman gives kidney to stranger

Kidney Sisters. (WISH photo)
Kidney Sisters. (WISH photo)

LOOGOOTEE, Ind. (WISH) – What would you do if someone you barely knew needed your kidney?

In the small town of Loogootee, Ind. two friends, so close they call themselves sisters, exchange gifts in their church’s emptied sanctuary.

“She knows that I love her very much,” said Sissy Woody.

Their bond they call unbreakable, but just months ago they barely knew each other.

Their story begins with Woody’s, and her health’s sudden spiral on Feb. 14th, 2011.

“I ended up having seizures, kidney failure, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure,”Woody said. “Everything just started shutting down.”


At the age of 45, Woody, an otherwise healthy wife and mother of two boys was dying.

“All they could tell us was kidney failure, you know, end-stage kidney failure, renal failure,” Woody said.

“The end of my life,” she said when asked what it meant to her.

For two years, as Woody was growing weaker on dialysis, she began growing stronger in her faith.

“I just would pray that God would find me a donor and so that I could get back to living at least a little bit of my life for my kids,” she said.

Her prayers for a donated kidney were multiplied when the congregation at United Methodist joined her battle.

Many even tested to see if they were a match, but nothing.

Then Woody thought her prayer was answered. Her brother found he was match. But as fast as her hope was raised, it plummeted to a new low. Further testing showed his health wouldn’t allow him to donate.

“I (am not) going to be there for my two kids, and I knew, I knew my oldest one would be OK but my little one, I knew he would never recover,” Woody said when she found out.

Sometimes prayers are answered in unexpected ways and while Woody was facing her death sentence, another mother and member at United Methodist, Christine Walker, had secretly spent months, going through test after test passing them all.

“I just felt like God called me to do it,” Walker said.

Woody knew Walker was one of those who had been initially tested, but what she didn’t know was revealed in the church’s kitchen after a service.

“I said, ‘What? What is going on?’ I said, ‘If you’re not a match you’re not a match. It’s OK!’ And she said, ‘I’m on the final step.’ She said, ‘We’re a match.’” Woody said.

In what they call choreographed operations, St. Vincent surgeons took Walker’s kidney and precisely transferred it to Woody’s body. The operation was a success and the fact that a near stranger was the donor, touched even the surgeons.

“You look back and you see, wow, you know, I don’t think this is coincidence. It’s just like everything was all set for these things to happen,” said Dr. Alvin Wee at St. Vincent Transplant Services.

“You know a lot of times you watch the morning news and you see all the events that happened since you saw it last night and you think, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ And then you come to work and you’re privileged to take care of people like Sissy and Christine and you’re immediately reassured that there is nothing wrong with the world, that good will always find its way through and people will continue to help each other out at every chance they get,” said Dr. Islam Ghoneim.

It was a gift that saved a life. It was a sacrifice that restored hope.

“She doesn’t like to be called a hero but she is my hero, and I love her,” Woody said.

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