Susan Welliver married her husband Dave 10 years ago: Everywhere she went for her son, T-ball, Tiger Scouts, he was there. There are many reasons she fell in love with Dave, but this one wasn't one of them:
“No, I didn't marry him to get his kidneys,” she laughs. “I had no idea that I was sick at all, it was such a shock for me.”
Susan was shocked to get sick because she'd been healthy her whole life. It turns out though she has rare genetic kidney disorder called FSGS:
“I was terrified,” she says. “I was terrified, for my son, for my marriage.”
So this couple faced three choices for Susan:
“What type of dialysis I wanted, or to consider a transplant, or to die of kidney failure,” she explains.
When it came to Dave being a kidney donor, only one of the two had hesitations.
“There was no doubt in my mind I was going to give that kidney up,” he says. “I would like to think any man who loves a woman would do the same.”
“When he volunteered, my first thought was, ‘I don't want you to do this,'” says Susan. “What if something happened in the hospital?”
He was a match.
“It made me feel loved and so lucky,” she says.
But in post-op it was clear they were both loved and lucky.
“The first thing Dave said when he came to was, ‘how is Susan,' and the first thing I said when I woke up was, ‘how is Dave,'” she remembers.
This year Georgia Regents Medical Center led the state is saving lives through organ donation. 20 percent of those donations are from living donors like Dave:
“It takes a special person that can look themselves in the mirror and say that I'm willing to have someone else in control of my body for three to four hours and put my life in somebody else's hands for the life of the person I'm giving the kidney to,” says Dr. Todd Merchen of Georgia Regents Medical Center.
But not every person has family who are willing, much less able to give a kidney. So the other 80 percent count on families who are already facing a tough time of their own:
“It is a testament to the families in our area, who at the most difficult times sit down and consider other people's lives in their worst moment,” Merchen says.
And that way their love for their loved one lives on.