Army civilian gives another the gift of life
February 6, 2014
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 6, 2014) -- Sharon Adams, an Army civilian, last year got a lesson in the meaning of the phrase "Army family," when a co-worker offered to help save her life through the donation of his kidney.
Working within Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Adams provides support to the families of fallen Soldiers through the planning of events, activities, lunches, support groups and memorial events -- "anything that brings them together."
Adams has been doing this work for about 15 years now -- helping others. But when her kidneys began to fail, and she was put on dialysis, she found herself on the waiting list for somebody else's kidney. Instead of helping others, she was now the one in need of assistance.
A lot of factors go into finding the right match for a kidney, Adams said. Things like blood type, antigens and so on must all be considered. A primary concern is ensuring that when a kidney is transplanted, the recipient's body does not reject it.
On the transplant list for a year, a kidney had not become available for her.
Adams' husband, three children, son-in-law and brother all stepped in to help. All tried to donate their kidneys, but they were either not a match or were rejected for one reason or another. With six offers, but no matches, Adams turned back to the kidney transplant list.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Adams got the help she needed.
Mark Ramsey is financial readiness program manager at Army Community Services, and a former Sailor too. He'd worked with Adams in the past at Fort Leavenworth, but had later taken a new assignment at Fort Jackson, S.C.
While checking up with his former colleague, he learned of her plight and offered his assistance. "He told me he'd try, but I never imagined he'd be a match," Adams said.
As it turns out, Ramsey was a match. And as he promised, Ramsey followed through with the kidney donation. He got a transfer back to his old job at Fort Leavenworth, and on Nov. 20, 2013 -- a date the two say will always have meaning for them -- the transplant took place at the Transplant Institute in Kansas City, Mo.
It was a success.
The surgery "knocked me down pretty good, but about six weeks later, all my energy came back, which is pretty much what the doctors had told me they hoped for," Ramsey said.
Ramsey explained that before the surgery the doctors discussed all of the risks involved and then he went through a screening process he described as "very rigorous." Included in the medical investigation were CT scans, treadmill tests, colonoscopy, chest X-rays, and blood and urine tests. "They were looking for any way to disqualify me."
Ramsey said he's back now to being fit and on full duty status. During a recent storm at Fort Leavenworth, for instance, which dumped a foot of snow on his driveway and sidewalk, he was out shoveling "with my little red snow shovel."
Looking back, Ramsey said "I have absolutely no regrets with the decision I made. For me it was a no-brainer. Once we were a match, if I didn't do it, I'd have never forgiven myself.
"Sharon is a wonderful lady," he added.
Coincidentally, Ramsey's cousin, age 23, donated his kidney to a friend last summer. The two have a lot to talk about now.
"He's going into the priesthood," Ramsey said of his cousin. "But to me, he's already a saint."
And Adams said she's doing just great too and feels "100 percent better," and hopes to be back at work within a month scheduling support groups, encouraging family members to discuss memories of their loved ones, and helping them to deal with grief and learn to move forward.
She'll return too to one of her favorite activities, scrapbooking. She helps families collect and arrange pictures of their fallen loved ones, along with Army memorabilia.
"It's a way for them to celebrate the lives of their Soldiers," she said.
Adams said she feels very blessed to have been given a second chance. "My quality of life has just jumped through the roof."
And, she added, "Sometimes in life we have situations that call for a hero and I had no idea my hero was right next door."
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