Bob and Susan Winkelmann and their family friend, Anne Fitzsimmons, live here in Columbia. These three have been friends for a long time – they’ve worked together and raised their kids in the neighborhood that they share. We met at an event hosted by the Missouri Kidney Program in September.
Bob has polycystic kidney disease, and these three spoke about their shared kidney transplantation journey.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Bob Winkelmann: I hardly like to ask people to borrow their pen, much less, something like a kidney.
When our nephrologist told Susan and I that it was time to find a kidney donor we came out of his office at the clinic and by total coincidence, and I think maybe some kind of intervention going on there -
Susan Winkelmann: - a lot of divine intervention.
Bob: But the very first person that we bumped into was Anne. We explained to her that we had just been told that we needed to try to find a kidney donor, and our question was “How do you go about asking someone about that?”
Anne is kind of a take-charge person, you have to know her. Well, she said, “You can't do that. You have to have your friends do it for you.” When Anne told us that she would help us find a donor and then her last remark was “and if I can't find anybody, I'll donate myself.”
Anne Fitzsimmons: That's partly what makes this extra special is that - every hoop, it was clearer and clearer that I was a better and better match. So, it ended up being on February 14th, so I have a Valentine's Day [date] into perpetuity. So, that's the date that we did our transplant.
Bob: Usually when people go in for surgery, they're kind of somber and it's serious stuff. Well, anyway, they roll me into the pre-op are, and Anne jumps out of her cart to come over and say, ‘Hey,” and you were wearing some kind of heating suit, and you go, “Hey, I look like the Michelin man,” and we're laughing and giggling and everyone's like “What's going on out there?”
Anne: It was really good to be able to spend that time right before. It was really important for me to see Bob. I know it was very scary for our families. I was very confident, I had no worries and I felt very sure. I know that Bob will always have a sense of “Wow, that was a big thing you did” -
Susan: - It was a big thing you did.
Anne: It was a big thing. But, I mean, that because he can't ask for a pen, it's really hard to ask for a kidney…
Bob: …But yeah, Anne's been a real trooper. I mean, she never complained once about any experience she had with this ordeal, and I am really, really grateful.
Anne: You're welcome. I'm from a big family, and I have one brother, and I gained a brother that day.