Cousins live five miles apart; admitted to transplant unit same day

Two members of the same family received the same transplant under the care of Dr. Jonathan Fridell.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes

They grew up in the same Elkhart County community 165 miles north of Indianapolis. And by chance two cousins came to IU Health University Hospital for the same transplant – with the same surgeon.

Luetta Fay Miller received a pancreas and kidney transplant on Nov. 19, 2017 and Marty Wingard also received a pancreas and kidney transplant on Dec. 19. 2018. Both were diagnosed with diabetes. Both were recently readmitted to IU Health on the same day – their rooms separated by just a few steps.

The two cousins grew up in Middlebury, Ind., a community of about 4,000 residents where the slogan is “Grown from Tradition.” The area is known for its rich Amish heritage that ranges from farming the land to operating an RV plant. The residents talk about one of the largest restaurants in the state – Das Dutchman Essenhaus that serves up authentic Amish recipes, and the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.

Twenty-two years ago Marty Wingard married his wife Doretta. Her mother, Esther Miller is the sister to Miller’s mother Ruby Schrock. The mothers are two of five siblings who grew up in Middlebury and raised their families in the community dating back to the 1830s. Twenty–three years ago Luetta Miller – who has a twin sister Loretta Chupp, married her husband John Mark. They have a daughter, 21 and a son, 10.

The families are part of the older Amish church that includes 200 churches in the district. 30 families in the area attend their church -Crystal Valley -.

“We all grew up together and we all know each other,” said Wingard. He and his wife met at a gathering at a friend’s house. Miller said she met her husband when the girls were getting together and the boys showed up.

Wingard, who works at an RV production plant recently returned to IU Health for treatment of an interparietal hernia. In his spare time he enjoys working on old tractors.

Miller returned to with a spiked fever. She and her husband work with “egg innovation,” a farm with 20,000 chickens that provides organic eggs to various retail stores.

Wingard was recently walking the hallways, feeling stronger, and ready to be discharged. Miller said she was hopeful that she’d be leaving right behind him.