- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

WEST BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - Despite a failing kidney that drained her energy, stiffened her joints and forced her on dialysis, Burlington resident Samantha Ripple never asked anyone for a kidney transplant.

It just went against her code of ethics.

“The doctors were like, ‘The best option would be for you to find a living donor,” she told The Hawk Eye (http://bit.ly/1P96rtW). “I don’t feel comfortable going up to someone and being like, ‘Hey, how’s it going? You like the weather today? You think you could give me a kidney?’ I didn’t ask anybody.”

If not for her friend and boss, Margo White, the 40yearold Ripple still would be on the donor list, doing her best to make it to the bathroom without vomiting. The two underwent a kidneyswap surgery a couple of weeks ago, and now Ripple is running around with more energy than she’s had years.

“I probably told Margo 4,000 times that it’s OK to say no, up to the morning of the transplant,” Ripple said.

White, 41, of West Burlington listened to Ripple’s repeated protests with the patience of a woman who made her mind up long ago.

Though White’s body will have to adjust to having one less kidney, her weariness will pass. The warmth of giving her friend the ultimate gift will last the rest of her life.

“I’m in awe of that,” said Ripple, who was struggling to hold back tears. “She never once faltered.”

Both Ripple and White have been registered nurses at the Great River Klein Center for the past decade (Ripple is coming up on her 10th year), and Ripple’s failing health was more than noticeable to her colleagues. By midmorning, Ripple’s knees would be so swollen she couldn’t bend them.

She was put on the kidney donor list in July of 2015 and was told it likely would take two to three years to get one from a cadaver. Though Ripple had to endure eight hours of dialysis every night, she already had accepted her fate. She didn’t want to push it on someone else.

“I always said I would never get a living donor,” Ripple said.

Her fellow nurses at the Klein Center had other ideas.

“They kept bothering me. They’re like, ‘So what do we have to be a donor?’ and I was like, ‘That’s just silly,’ ” Ripple said.

Four Klein Center staff members and the mother of one staff member signed up for testing to see if their kidneys would work in Ripple’s body, but White was the only perfect match.

“I had hounded her (Ripple) for the (transplant) papers, and I had talked to my husband about it, and he was on board with it,” White said.

She may be the head nurse, but White treats her staff like a family, always keeping the atmosphere light. When they aren’t helping patients, the nurses at the Klein Center usually joke around with each other.

“When Margo announced it to the staff, she said, ‘I would do this for any of you, but it’s first come, first serve,’ ” Ripple said with a laugh.

It took quite a bit of testing to determine if any of the staff would match, and Ripple was standing next to White when the confirmation call came in. White was given the option to tell White herself, or have a transplant official spill the beans.

White just laughed off the second option.

“I said, ‘If I know her well enough to give her a kidney, I think I know her well enough to tell her,’ ” White said with a grin.

The miracle call came just before Christmas, and White had to undergo further testing to make sure she was physically fit enough for the surgery. The women were placed sideby-side in the surgery room, and White’s kidney was only in the air for a matter of seconds before it became a part of Ripple’s body.

“It’s not uncommon for a living donor kidney to last 20 or 30 years, because they have a better congestive rate,” Ripple said.

That means more blood flow and less chance of rejection than a kidney from a recently deceased donor. Ripple was forced to get a kidney transplant 13 years ago due to complications with Type I diabetes. Her donor, Nick Thomas Jones, 22, of Oskaloosa had died in a car accident 30 hours earlier, on New Year’s Eve.

“I met with his parents and talked to his mom, and they were very supportive,” Ripple said.

Ripple still keeps in contact with the mother of her original donor, which isn’t that surprising, considering the passion she has for her job. Klein Center is a retirement community for those who no longer can take care of themselves. Both Ripple and White love their jobs, which made Ripple’s illness all the more frustrating. She never called in sick.

“I like the elder population. I think they deserve a lot of respect and dignity,” Ripple said. “It’s like going to work and taking care of 16 of your grandmas and grandpas every day. You get to hug them.”

Ripple has a 6yearold daughter at home, and White is happy her coworker will have enough energy to play with her again. The rest of the Klein Center nursing staff has pitched in as well, selling Tshirts to help defray the cost of the surgery.

“Before the transplant, I kept thinking, ‘I can’t imagine how (Ripple’s) mom feels not being able to help daughter, and how helpless that feeling would be,’ ” White said.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com

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