People consider Chris and Stephanie a match made in heaven.
Stephanie knew Chris her whole life. He grew up in the same neighborhood and was a friend of her brother’s. They attended the same schools, knew all of the same people, but Chris was a bit more wild—and Stephanie a bit more reserved—so their friendship never evolved into anything more.
Until almost two decades later, that is. Chris had settled down a bit, and when he and Stephanie reconnected, friendship soon became romance. In 2004, they were married.
“God brought him to me,” Stephanie, 44, said. “He makes me complete.”
Two years after they were married, Stephanie, who has diabetes, learned she needed a kidney transplant. Chris, 43, insisted he be tested for compatibility.
He was a match.
“The Lord knew what he was doing. It’s just all connected. It’s amazing,” Stephanie said.
When she has a quiet moment to reflect on the fortune that has come her way, Chris always gets top billing. But Stephanie said she has been blessed many times, in often unusual ways.
“We’re very lucky people,” Stephanie said.
When she was 27, she was bitten by a spider. The bite didn’t heal, so she went to the doctor. It was then that she learned that she was diabetic. Without the spider bite, Stephanie reasons, she wouldn’t have learned about her diagnosis and gotten the treatment she needed. Same goes for the mild stroke she had in 2006, when doctors discovered her kidneys were failing.
For most of her life, Stephanie had few medical problems, and when she was diagnosed with kidney failure, she hardly let that slow her down. A full-time special education teacher, Stephanie woke up each morning, worked, then ended the day with four hours of dialysis.
Eventually, she was able to use a different type of dialysis that allowed her to receive her treatments at home, but it’s meant few trips anywhere without all of the required machinery and medication, and it’s put a crimp in Chris and Stephanie’s previously active lives.
They don’t travel by plane anymore—it’s just too difficult to lug all of the dialysis equipment along.
“It’s just real tedious,” Stephanie said.
The couple has become mini-experts in medical talk. Chris, a road construction foreman, can rattle off complicated medical terms like a grocery list. It’s hard to watch his wife suffer so many medical complications—several years ago, the toes on her left foot were amputated, and this year, the toes on her right foot were removed. But Chris said she and Stephanie work together to overcome the obstacles.
“It’s the way you interpret life—that’s what you get out of it,” Chris said, adding that Stephanie’s incredible optimism has been an inspiration.
“She’s a beautiful woman. She’s caring. She has a beautiful heart. She’s exceptional.”
But he is looking forward to Stephanie being free from the restrictions of dialysis.
“Hopefully, we can live a more normal life,” Chris said. He said he never questioned whether he would donate a kidney, and isn’t too nervous about the procedure. He joked that he plans on getting a tattoo of kidney so he can feel as if he never lost one. To help get in shape for the procedure, he joined Team Transplant for the 2009 Subaru Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, Colorado and cycled 25 miles to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation.
Stephanie vacillates a bit more about the transplant. Most of the time, she’s eager to get back to the place where she can live a more normal life, but sometimes, she gets scared about Chris’ recovery. And on the days when she worries, or just wants to give up, it’s Chris who picks her up and helps her keep going.
“Chris is kind of my rock,” Stephanie said. “I’m the lucky one.”
The transplant is scheduled for fall 2009, and Chris and Stephanie know just what they’re going to do once they’ve recovered:
They’re going to get on a plane.
Chris and Stephanie’s story was written by volunteer Gabrielle Johnston.
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