Donate Life Month: Debbi's Story

Over the years, Cincinnati residents Debbi and Larry Perrin have learned that seemingly "chance" situations often end up being anything but chance. One that changed everything for Debbi was undergoing tests in the mid-90s to see if she could be a kidney donor for her brother. She learned she'd been born with only one kidney and unfortunately, also had kidney disease. Although her need for a kidney was unrelated to her brother's, down the road, Debbi would be looking for a kidney donor, too.

It would be more than 20 years until the Perrins, now retired, would have to begin the search. Over those years, Debbi's kidney function slowly declined, and her doctor said dialysis would eventually become a reality. But Debbi was adamant—it wouldn't be for her. Her brother had been on dialysis and she wanted no part of the restrictive life and fatigue it caused.

She actually had a hard time believing she would even need it. "I didn't feel sick at all," Debbi recalls. "My energy level was good; I didn't have restrictions on my diet or activity."

In the summer of 2016, Debbi's doctor told her if she didn't want to go on dialysis, it was time to find someone willing to donate a kidney. Debbi learned that asking someone for a kidney isn't easy when you're the person who needs it. Larry became her donor champion and advocate. As family and friends learned about Debbi's need, Larry talked to them about what donating involved and how to contact The Christ Hospital if they wanted to be tested.

A Conversation Changed Everything

Although Larry and a sign in their car were good about getting the word out, by early 2017, Debbi still didn't have a donor. They were considering what their next steps should be when another chance encounter—over wine with the neighbors—changed everything.

Debbi's need for a kidney donor came up in the conversation and Mary Beth Schutter, who lived two doors down said without hesitation, "I'll be your donor."

Debbi and Larry laugh, recalling that they wondered if wine was behind the offer. "We didn't really know her and her family beyond saying 'hi' at the mailbox," Debbi says. "We were thrilled and hopeful, but at the same time, skeptical."

Two days later, Mary Beth called to assure them she was serious, saying she felt it was her calling. "She told me she wanted to do it for someone who was deserving and she thought that person was me," says Debbi.

Mary Beth was a match and passed through further testing with flying colors, with no health issues that would keep her from donating. On Jan. 30, 2018, she and Debbi underwent their surgeries to kick off a new year and a new life for Debbi.

That new life includes new relationships, too. Not surprising, Mary Beth, her husband, three kids and even Mary Beth''s large extended family are more than just neighbors—"Mary Beth is an angel on earth. We love her and the whole family!" says Debbi.

The Perrins feel they have family in their team at Christ Hospital, too. "We've had a great experience with everyone at Christ," says Larry. That new family also includes Grace and Jim Kroniczand Greg and Linda Heckman, other transplant patients and their spouses they've laughed and talked with in the hours spent together in the follow-up clinic after transplant.

"We meet for dinner once a month and text and talk throughout the week," says Debbi. "Our new and lifelong friendships have been a great support system. Even though we've each had our own ups and downs, it's really great to know we have each other—people to lean on who understand our issues."

The Christ Hospital is changing everything for people who need a kidney and the people willing to donate one. If you want to learn more about kidney transplant and living kidney donation, find answers to frequently asked questions, or call our kidney transplant team at 513-585-2493.