Co-workers donate kidneys to save each other’s husbands


Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis worked in the same department at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for years. One day, Susan’s manager informed her that Tia and Susan shared a common struggle: Both women’s husbands suffered from kidney failure and had been put on the transplant list. When Tia and Susan confided in each other about their husbands’ kidney disease, that brief conversation miraculously led to the lifesaving kidney surgery both of their husbands desperately needed.

Tia and Susan’s life-changing connection all started over a casual chat in their office restroom. During the random encounter, the two women discussed their husbands’ progress through the transplant evaluation process. The conversation led to the topic of their blood types. Susan mentioned that her husband, Lance, was type O negative, while she was type A—meaning she couldn’t donate a kidney to her spouse. That was when Tia experienced a lightbulb moment: Tia is type O negative, and her husband, Rodney, is type A. By an incredible coincidence, each woman was a blood type match for the other woman’s husband. This meant they could become one another’s exchange donor.

Tia immediately went back to her desk and excitedly called her husband’s transplant coordinator with the news. Tests confirmed that Tia and Susan were indeed matches, and the two couples received donor approval. Seven months later, Tia, Rodney, Susan and Lance underwent a paired kidney exchange transplant on the same day. Susan’s kidney was transplanted to Rodney, and later that day, Tia’s kidney was given to Lance. The surgeries were a great success.

Both families know how lucky they are to have found a viable match. “It’s about seven to nine years that people wait for a kidney. For those seven to nine years, you are living on dialysis. Most people will probably not live that long on dialysis,” Susan explained.

Experiencing the emotional journey of the transplant process gave the two families a unique bond. They are more than friends now; they consider themselves family. Had it not been for that friendly office chitchat, Susan said, things might not have progressed, and their husbands would still be on the donor list.

“What I hope people take away is to consider that they could be someone else’s answer to their prayers, they could be someone else’s hope, and all it takes is a conversation, a kind word,” said Tia.

In our modern world, people are often so busy that they sometimes miss the opportunity to connect with others. The women said they hope their story inspired others to open up to one another. You never know what miracles a brief, friendly conversation will lead to.

PassItOn and the Foundation For A Better Life believe Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis are true heroes for their ability to connect. Their story started with kindness and resulted in saving their husbands’ lives. Their actions demonstrate the value of connection. Connecting with others enriches all our lives. When we connect, we begin to feel a responsibility to help make someone else’s life a little better. Please help us honor Tia and Sara by sharing their inspiring story.

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