Single mom finds life-saving kidney from stranger through social media
[Aug 4, 2021: Joe Chiodo]
A single mom from Kansas received the gift of life in May 2021, thanks to a woman she never met.
"I just wasn’t feeling right. I knew something was wrong. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m pregnant and this is how you feel,’" Shufelberger recalled of feeling fatigued.
“God always has a plan and I never knew what he was going to do…but it far exceeded my expectations,” Kim Shufelberger said.
Shufelberger is a woman with a strong faith. But about three years ago that faith was tested.
“It was tough. Oh it was tough – yeah,” she explained. “I went to the doctor and they said ‘surprise surprise you’re in stage 5.’ And I never thought I’d get there. So I was very emotional."
She learned her kidney’s were failing.
“I cried for a while. I just had faith God could heal me. But he had greater plans. And I’m very thankful for that.”
She got on the transplant list and for those three years waited desperately for a call.
“I got 2 phone calls, but i was fourth in line each time and that was devastating,” She said.
Running out of time one of Kim’s friends took to Facebook. She set up a fundraiser.
As a teacher and a single mom Kim was so appreciative of the help. The fundraiser also included a plea for anyone who may be a match to donate a kidney to save her life.
Finding a deceased donor is hard enough. But Kim says finding a living donor seemed impossible. After all, the chances of even a sibling match are only 25%.
But the internet’s reach is far greater than we often think.
“I’m just a teacher – a single mom and teacher here,” Brittany Clark said via zoom.
Clark, from Liberty, South Carolina, saw the post and it caught her eye due to the similarities she had with Kim.
“If god wants me to do something I’ll just ask him,” Clark said.
So she did…and the post popped up again.
“A week later I saw the same thing and thought, ‘what she doesn’t have a donor yet its been a whole week?!’”
That’s all it took. Clark went to get tested that day.
“They called back and said I was a perfect match. When I caught up with the nephrologist he said we’re a match like sisters and we’re complete strangers,” she said.
Shufelberger was shocked. She never thought Facebook would deliver her a match.
“Never. Never in a million years did I think I would get a living donor,” Shufelberger said.
And she especially didn’t think that living person would be someone she never met.
“That was really cool haha we had talked on the phone and video chatted so I knew her – but like meeting her…,” Clark explained as she reminisced back to their meeting.
Clark flew to Kansas City and the two immediately clicked.
“It was a very surreal moment,” Shufelberger said.
In cell phone video recorded post surgery the two prove their unique bond.
“Thank you for saving my life,” Shuefelberger said through tears. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Clark responded.
Clark, also a teacher and single mom from South Carolina, saw the post by chance on Facebook. It caught her eye, and when she logged back on and saw the post a second time, she decided to reach out, Shufelberger said. (CREDIT: Saint Luke's Hospital)
Doctors at Saint Luke’s performed the surgery. Even they said this kind of transplant is extremely rare.
Shufelberger said in the end she’s gained more than an organ
“Everyday I’m like why me? How do I deserve this? I’m just so very thankful – and I have a new sister,” she said.
“It’s an amazing connection that i have a sister a thousand miles away,” Clark agreed.
Today the two women talk nearly everyday. Two teachers, two single moms, and two women forever bonded by a kidney and their faith.
“I’m so lucky to know you,” Clark said to Shufelberger.
The two hope their story encourages others to not only sign up to be an organ donor but to get tested when you see someone needs a match.
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