Friend gives Winfield-Mt. Union teacher a new lease on life
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
NEW LONDON — “I just hope people will stop and think about this,” said Lynn Riley, about the importance of organ donation.
Last December, Riley, a third grade teacher at Winfield-Mt. Union, had a kidney transplant. Her friend, Ginger Huston, was the donor.
“My mom and I had talked about being an organ donor a while back, and she told me she was on a donor’s list. I had never even thought about it much,” said Huston. “She said why not give eyes to somebody so they can see, or tissue to a burn victim so that they can have skin again. She said, ‘If I can make five or six or seven people live with what I’ve got, why not? Why not let somebody else live?’ and I had never thought about that.”
In February of 2012, Riley went in for some blood-work for her diabetes, and the doctor found something unexpected.
“My doctors called and said that they thought I had a problem and I needed to go see a kidney specialist,” said Riley.
When Riley first heard back from her doctor, she didn’t believe the news.
“I told them I’m just dehydrated. I had been working out extra hard and it was just dehydration,” said Riley.
Riley and her husband, Karl, followed the doctors orders and met with the kidney specialist.
“The first thing he started talking about was kidney biopsies and kidney transplants and on and on. I just sat there and thought I don’t need that. I just need to drink more water,” she said.
After talking to the specialist, Riley had agreed to have an ultrasound done on her kidneys, thinking that no decisions would need to be made for a few months.
“I said ok, just the ultrasound. I’m cool with that,” she said.
“It wasn’t even an hour after I got home that he called and said ‘Ok, we are scheduled for a CATscan on Wednesday morning and you will have a biopsy right away.’ I asked why and he explained there was a problem and we needed to address it right away,” she recalled.
After the biopsy, Riley found out that her kidneys had calcified.
“Instead of kidneys forming little stones, my whole kidney had turned to stone,” she said.
She went on some medications to help her kidneys, and later found out she would need a kidney transplant.
“I met the doctor in July and he made me go through a transplant evaluation. In my mind I was still thinking I was just dehydrated,” she said.
After going through her transplant evaluation, Riley was told she was a good candidate to receive a transplant. Thought her transplant evaluation, she also found out she had a form of Cystic Fibrosis.
“The doctor asked if anyone in my family had Cystic Firbrosis, and I told him ‘yes.’ My dad, as it turns out, was a carrier of it. And so I have that gene,” Riley explained.
Once the doctors realized what was wrong, they began trying to find ways to fix it.
“They told me the fastest way to get a transplant was from a live donor,” she said.
Riley’s husband volunteered immediately, but because of pregnancy, she had built up antibodies against him and that wouldn’t work.
Because the disease in her kidneys was genetic, her children were ruled out as donors as well.
“When we found out it was genetic, Karl and I both decided right away that the kids wouldn’t be tested as donors. Maybe someday they would need a kidney, and then Karl could donate to them,” said Riley.
Before long, people learned Riley needed a kidney.
“By word of mouth, people found out I had these donor packets, and they would come up to me and say that they’d do it,” she said.
Soon after, one of Huston’s previous co-workers told her about Riley, and Huston knew she had to do something to help.
“I came home and saw it on Facebook, and I called her up right away and told her I wanted to come over and talk. Before I went over, I talked with my husband about it and we decided I was going to do this,” said Huston.
When Huston found out she was a perfect match, she called Riley right away to tell her.
“I called her at lunch time at school and asked her if she had heard and I told her that I was a perfect match. I told her I was going to give her my kidney,” said Huston.
“It was so cool,” said Riley. “Iowa City called and they told me there were four matches, but they wouldn’t tell me who. I remember going into the office at school and crying because I was so happy there was a match.”
Huston was happy to help in anyway she could. “I thought, I am going to do this. Why not do this while I’m still alive? Why not be able to watch the person live? She’s a third-grade teacher. Her class needs her. Her kids need her,” she said.
While Riley said she was nervous about the entire process, Huston wasn’t worried until the morning of surgery.
“It’s just like any other surgery. Yeah, something could happen, but you could also go on the road and die in a car accident,” Huston explained.
Without a live donor, Riley would have been put on a transplant list, which could have taken five years or longer to find her a kidney.
The surgery in early December went well, and after six weeks of recovery, Riley was back in the classroom on Monday. “I was a little tired, but it wasn’t bad,” she said.
The experience has given Riley a new outlook on life, and just how lucky she is. “I’ve got a second chance now, It has made a total difference in how I look at things,” she said.
“I had never thought of being an organ donor before. I just thought it seemed scary. And then I thought, after everything I’ve gone through, my mind is totally changed,” said Riley. “I’ve got a second chance now.”