Heidi and Sheila met in college in Iowa back in 1978 and would joke that they were “forced” to be friends because their parents advised them to stay on campus on weekends rather than go home like their peers. They would provide each other with a support system through nursing clinical rotations, late nights paper writing, final exams, and the inevitable “boy drama.” The support would not stop in college as Sheila would need Heidi’s support on much more important level years down the road.
After graduation, Heidi would move south for graduate school before moving to various locations for the next 20 years before finally settling on the East coast. Now while Heidi and her family may have been on the move, her friendship with Shelia was not going anywhere. They would continue to be great friends throughout the years by talking over the phone and taking advantage of the limited opportunities they had to see each other over the years. Whatever the occasion was they found themselves laughing and just genuinely enjoying each other’s company. They also found that they were able to provide each other with the same support they always had.
This support would show up in the grandest of ways when about five years ago Sheila was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease that causes kidney failure. She was informed that should need a donor, so the search began. Heidi would be there to support her friend through the process but found out she could support her in the best way possible when she found out that she of all people was the best match to donate her kidney to Sheila.
Shelia would go on to have a successful transplant and 16 months post-transplant both are doing well. Sheila feels great, has her energy back, is out walking, and eating the healthy food that she loves again. Now there may have been a few “blips” along the way, the fact that these two were able to make this work being on different sides of the country in the middle of a pandemic is amazing. Heidi would like to address the false narrative that donating an organ will make you feel sick for the rest of your life as she feels great, and walks 5-7 miles every day.
Now together Heidi and Sheila will be doing the William A. Irvin 5K together to celebrate their journey and special friendship. They hope that their story can help bring awareness to the need for living donors. This is a real issue in America with over 100,000 people in line for a new organ. “I know the process and uncertainty of being a living donor can be overwhelming and even scary. Yet, I firmly believe that we are put on this earth to do good for others, and having the opportunity to save someone’s life is a true gift” said Heidi. This ultimate act of selflessness and friendship should be celebrated and doing the William A. Irvin 5K is a great way to do that.