Michelle and John Schaefer (Submitted photo)

Cleo Wenzel
Special to the Catholic Herald

Michelle Schaefer, of Dresser, has a new lease on life after she received the most wonderful Christmas gift in December of 2016.

For years, she had kidney problems that progressed to stage 5 chronic kidney disease in the past year, a condition in which her kidneys had less than 10 percent of normal function and could no longer remove the toxins that built up in her body. Only hemodialysis – for the rest of her life – or a kidney transplant could save her life.
Michelle explained, “There are lots of symptoms with kidney disease. I was added to a transplant list three years ago when my kidneys were functioning below 20 percent, but getting to the top of the waiting list for a deceased donor transplant takes so many years. And there just aren’t enough living donors.

“So, in 2016, I had to have two surgeries for my fistula placement (to widen the vein for easier insertion of the needle and faster blood flow during dialysis) and three times a week, I had to use a dialysis machine that filtered my blood and then returned it to my body,” she added.

No one who volunteered to donate a kidney to Michelle was a perfect enough match. After helping her endure so many health challenges and despite learning there was only a one-in-100,000 chance an unrelated person could be a kidney match, her husband John nevertheless asked doctors to check whether he might be a match.

John commented, “It was hard to see Michelle suffering. As I prayed for her, the Bible verse from John 15:13 came to mind: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’ so I dearly wanted to do that for her.”

Donor compatibility is established through blood tests to look for matching blood types and six antigens, all of which help prevent kidney rejection. And, of course, a donor must be totally healthy.

The couple and their three sons were overjoyed to learn John was almost a perfect match.
As soon as all testing was finished, surgery was scheduled for Dec. 20.

Michelle commented, “We were so encouraged by the love and prayer support offered by members of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Somerset. They also dropped off a Christmas tree decorated with gift certificates to help with expenses, since neither of us could work for several weeks.”

John added, “Some of the people praying for us even put their photos and supportive messages together in a little photo library set to music for us to watch before our surgeries.”

The kidney transplant was completed successfully with only minor complications for Michelle. By Christmas Eve, both Michelle and John were home from the hospital.

“This was the best Christmas we’ve ever had,” Michelle said. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of the St. Anne community. They even brought meals over for more than a month, and the KCs hosted a church breakfast to help pay for medical expenses.”

John added, “I don’t have the words to express our gratitude eloquently enough, but the power of prayer is limitless when given in love and respecting the will of God. Our family was strengthened by the prayers, love and help of so many people.”

John added, “I hope more people will look into organ donation. They could check out the Hennepin County Medical Center, https://hcmc.org/clinics/TransplantProgram and the Kidney Foundation, https://www.kidney.org.”

Michelle and John are both back to their jobs now, each with one functioning kidney, relieved and happy they were granted this miracle.