As most of you know, Jack and I have been married for 28 years. Early in my life, I believed that we could have met different people we could be with and be happy. However, I now believe there is one person for me and that person is Jack!
I met Jack rafting on the Chattahoochee river in Georgia when I was 18. He lived in Texas at the time and we dated long distance . We got married in 1986. We were blessed to have our son, J.T., 2 years later. When J.T. was about 9 months old, we found out that Jack had IGA Nephropathy, which is a kidney disease they believe he developed from an untreated strep infection when he was a child. We were told in 90-95% of the cases people never have any issues with it. We believed, of course, that we would be in the 90-95%. We went on with our lives. In 1990, we were blessed to have twin girls. After they were born, Jack started having issues with his kidneys, so the doctor did a kidney biopsy. That was one of the longest days ever. I didn’t have any family here so I spent the day at the hospital with 6 month old twin girls and a 2 year old boy! At the end of that day we found out that Jack fell into the 5- 10% of people who would possibly need a transplant. What that meant was managing any complications until his kidneys failed enough to get a transplant. We thought we were in the clear because he had two brothers and two sisters who were willing to be donors. So we waited. Jack is not a complainer so he never said a word about anything. Not even to say he was tired. In 1994, we found out that his brother had to have a surgery and they wanted family members to donate blood. Unbelievably, Jack was the only family member with a different blood type than the rest of his siblings. What that meant for us was that none of his family would be eligible to donate a kidney to him.
The most basic requirement to be a donor for someone is to match blood types. There are many factors after that but that is the first one. In 1996, Jack had to be put on the transplant list. In order for that to happen, we had to go to a class at the University of Minnesota Hospital to learn about what that means. While at this meeting we found out that The U of M was one of a few hospitals at the time doing living, non-related donors. That meant , to me, that I could look into being a donor. I found out that I was the same blood type as Jack. He and I had many discussions about me being a donor for him. He was against it. He felt our children were too young to have both parents at risk by undergoing such major surgeries. I felt our children and myself were too young to not have a father and a husband. I went ahead and scheduled my testing to see if I could be a match for him. The discussions continued and weren’t always calm. I did the testing .
One day in late January, I got a call at work at 4:25PM from the transplant center saying I was a match and that we would do the surgery the last week in April. Jack was getting sicker and sicker and was becoming less resistant to my donating. In February, he called me after one of his doctor appointments and I asked how it went. He said, ”Well, the doctor says that I have 30-90 days and my options are transplant, dialysis or death.” I’ll never forget that! The doctor thought we should move the transplant up and I was all for it, but little did I know it isn’t that simple. I called the U of M and they said they couldn’t move it up unless there was a cancellation. I didn’t even want to know what had to happen for there to be a cancellation. I got a call back that they could do it on the 18th of March. We had to make up wills and living wills and make plans for if the worst were to happen. As you can guess, it went perfectly! Jack was back at work in 3 weeks! It has been 18 years and he is still perfect! I have had no issues from donating my kidney. The doctors told me I could do anything I wanted, it would be the same as being born with only one kidney, which happens all the time.
Did you know that April is National Organ Donor Awareness Month? It is a great time to learn more and create awareness for such an important and in live-saving cause. To find out more go to
I can honestly say I would give again and again if I could. Saving a life is so worth it! I invite you or anyone you know who may be in need, to contact me with any questions you may have.
Robin Bernens