Created: February 27, 2020 07:39 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Three women reunited this week for the first time since a life-changing procedure connected them forever.
Their story started with Dexter native Abby Rossow learning she needed a new kidney at just 21 years old.
"I was just really tired all the time," she said.
She was rushed to the emergency room in the spring of 2017 and learned she had just 23% of her kidney function, which quickly declined after her diagnosis. By that fall she had no kidney function at all and was placed on dialysis.
"That just made me sick all the time," she said.
But she didn’t let it show.
"Abby's always been very positive and upbeat about everything," said Rose Creek Resident Renita McCabe Irvin.
Renita knew of Abby since she was a little girl, but the pair recently connected at the Mower County fair.
"Abby was a Dairy Princess candidate and she had a shift at the malt wagon. My supervisor had said there were some medical problems and she may not be able to work," said Renita.
But Abby did make it to work that day.
"Her and I had a conversation about what was going on,” said Renita. “Afterwards I looked into what does it take to be a living donor."
Renita went through three days of testing to find out if she could be Abby’s match.
“Other people tried and nothing happened. I tried not to get my hopes up but I had a good feeling," said Abby.
Renita learned she was a good match, but not a perfect one.
"One is there's an age difference considerably. The other one was not all the numbers were matching up quite right. But they were within the acceptable range,” she said.
The doctors decided to wait to see if they could find Abby a better match.
In the meantime, they were both placed on Mayo Clinic’s paired donation list.
"Within the Mayo system we would be screened against other donors," said Renita.
So Abby could get a kidney from a better match and Renita could give a kidney to a better match.
"Our goal is actually that the best matched kidney gets to the recipient so the transplant will do as well long-term as possible," said Dr. Andrew Bentall, transplant nephrologist at Mayo Clinic.
Eventually, Abby did find a better match when Katie McKee came into the picture.
"I knew I wanted to donate but had no idea whom it would go to,” said Katie.
Katie worked in the transplant center at Mayo Clinic and later at life source, an organization dedicated to saving lives through organ donation.
"My decision to be a living donor was really a very small tribute to those who check the box," said Katie.
On December 30, after two and a half years of waiting, Abby finally got a new kidney. The next day she met her donor, Katie.
"There's really no words. She walked into the room I didn't even know what to say. It was awesome," said Abby.
Katie described the moment as life changing.
“Later that same night Renita came to visit Abby and we got to meet each other. That was a day I think we will always remember," she said.
Even though Abby got her kidney, Renita knew she still had one to give.
"I could've been a stinker and said okay Abby's got her kidney I'm done. But I made a commitment," she said.
Renita learned she was a match for a stranger in Illinois.
"She'd been waiting five years for a kidney," she said.
In the middle of February, the pair went through transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic.
"Her husband looked at me and said why'd you do this? Why would you do this? I just said because I could and because it was the right thing to do," she said.
What started as one woman trying to help one girl in her community turned into two people getting a second chance at life.
Copyright 2020 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company