“My life is not on the line here, but hers is;” Doctors forced to call off kidney donation surgery


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s not the update either woman hoped to share.

A woman who donated part of her liver in February 2019 was preparing to donate her kidney on January 18.

WCIA first introduced you to Renee Sample, a grandmother with poly cystic kidney disease, back in May 2020. She was on dialysis and on a waiting list for a deceased kidney donor. The list was several years long, and Sample feared she didn’t have that kind of time.

Jody Wilkey, an “Angel Among Us,” who had donated part of her liver in 2019, was watching and wanted to help Sample.

The two went through numerous tests, passing each one and feeling more optimistic each day they got closer to their surgery date.

But then, Wednesday morning, doctors called to deliver news neither was expecting: bloodwork revealed Sample’s antibodies had a high likelihood of rejecting Wilkey’s kidney on the operating table.

The surgery was off.

Wilkey recalled the call from OSF.

“She said I’ve never had to deliver news like this before. I’m so sorry, but the surgery for Monday is canceled,” Wilkey told WCIA. “I’m just – I’m still shocked.”

“I think I’m feeling a whole gamut of emotions,” Sample said. “I’m feeling very sad, extremely disappointed, because I was five days out. Frustrated because we came this far. And I thought we were relatively good to go after the last couple of hurdles we had to overcome. But I think sad is primarily it. And I feel like I’ve disappointed a lot of people. A lot of people were looking forward to Monday and how everything would work out, especially my daughter. So, now we’re back to square one.”

Sample and Wilkey are enrolling in a paired exchange program Friday through OSF. According to the National Kidney Foundation, the program aims to “help incompatible pairs of recipient/donors through a process called paired exchange, which involves two living donors and two recipients. If the recipient from one pair is compatible with the donor from the other pair, and vice versa– the transplant center may arrange for a ‘swap’–for two simultaneous transplants to take place. This allows two transplant candidates to receive organs and two donors to give organs though the original recipient/donor pairs were unable to do so with each other.”

Sample will continue looking for other possible donors as well.

According to the foundation, roughly 100,000 people are waiting for donations right now.

To learn more about how to be a living donor, click here.

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