These Two Coworkers Become Heroes For Their Dying Husbands
Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis are coworkers turned close friends who donated their kidneys to each other’s husbands, after realizing they were a match.
July 06, 2021 at 8:43 pm
Two women who worked together at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta had no idea they would be the ones to save their husbands’ lives.
In an exclusive CNN report, Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis both had husbands who were suffering from kidney disease and were in need of a transplant. The two became fast friends in 2019 upon discovering this information.
Everything changed when the pair had a short conversation in the bathroom last September while working in the IT department at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. During the conversation, Wimbush and Ellis found out that their blood types were compatible with their husbands. Wimbush is O negative, just like Ellis’ husband, and Ellis’ blood type is A which is compatible with Wimbush’s husband who has type AB.
"All that was going through my head is, 'What if we can donate our kidneys to each other's husbands?' I could have never imagined it,” Wimbush told CNN.
In 2019, Wimbush’s husband Rodney Wimbush was diagnosed with kidney disease. Since then, he has been undergoing dialysis to stay alive.
Susan's husband, Lance Ellis, was diagnosed with the same disease in 2010. Lance received a kidney transplant from his mother in 2017, however, in 2019 his body began rejecting the kidney. Since then, like Rodney, Lance has been undergoing dialysis to remain alive.
Both men were placed on the transplant list in 2020. The American Kidney Fund says the average wait time for patients on that list is at least five years. Both Tia and Susan didn’t want to let their husbands’ lives hang in the balance, so they agreed to donate their kidneys to each other’s husbands.
On March 19, 2021, both couples underwent surgery at the Piedmont Hospital located in Atlanta. Tia donated her kidney to Lance and Susan donated her kidney to Rodney. The surgeries were a success.
"It is very rare for two immunologically incompatible pairs to propose their own paired exchange and actually be a match for one another," Christina Klein, a transplant nephrologist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, said in a statement. "I have been a transplant nephrologist since 2008 working in active living donation and paired kidney exchange programs, and I have personally never seen this happen before."
Since the surgery in March, the couples have grown closer.
"It's beyond friendship. They really are family," Tia said. "We all took a leap of faith in doing this and now we are forever connected, always rooting each other on in both the recovery process and in this second chance of life."
The two women returned to work in May and hope that their story will inspire others to become donors as well.
"I'm forever changed. I'm hopeful for humanity and I hope other people will take that away from this story," Tia said. "You can be somebody else's hope, it could be you to show someone a glimpse of what humanity really means."