Her husband’s kidney was one of four

Two years ago, Andrew “Andy” Dietz gave a precious gift to help his wife. He donated his kidney through the Advanced Donor Program – knowing when it was time she would receive someone else’s kidney.

There are two pictures that stick like glue in Jill Dietz’s mind. One was taken on Dec. 6, 2017 – she is standing next to her husband’s hospital bed. The second one was taken Feb. 19, 2019 – her husband is sitting on her hospital bed. Both pictures include a special little mascot – a stuffed animal named “Snuggles.”

The cuddly brown dog has been with the couple through 30 surgeries including two pancreas transplants and two kidney transplants. It was Jill’s second kidney transplant in February that is as much of a bond for the couple as the stuffed dog.

Through The Advanced Donation Program (ADP), Andy Dietz was able to donate his kidney to the National Kidney Registry, making it available to another patient. In turn, his wife was added to the registry and another kidney became available when she needed a transplant. IU Health is one of the only healthcare systems in Indiana with an advanced donation program for living kidney donors – and one of less than 10 in the United States. At the time Jill received her kidney, three other patients across the country also received a transplant.

March is National Kidney Month, a time when the National Kidney Foundation urges people to give their kidneys a well-deserved checkup. Kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day, help regulate blood pressure and direct red blood cell production. One in three Americans are at risk of kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. More than 30 million Americans are already living with kidney disease.

Jill Dietz’s health issues began at the age of seven when she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. In 2006 she received two pancreas transplants and one kidney transplant. Her body rejected both pancreas transplants. She was admitted to IU Health for 21 days and had five surgeries. Eight years later, Andy wanted to donate a kidney to his wife, but her body had developed antibodies that were attacking her husband’s blood type. Since timing was off and the kidney also wouldn’t be a good match, they chose the route of advanced donation.

The advantages of advanced donation were twofold – it’s a faster way to connect with a donor and it’s a living donor, said Andy.  After years of treatment through IU Health the couple also knew the transplant team and were confident in the transplant program.

Just days after her transplant, Jill met with transplant coordinator Jill Gorman and prepared to be discharged.

“I’ve been with Jill for about five years. She’s so nice and so friendly. I can’t say enough about the staff at IU Health,” said Dietz, who is a patient of nephrologist Dr. Tim E. Taber. “He has provided me with excellent care and guidance every step of the way.”

And what about “Snuggles” the stuffed dog?

He was the first gift Andy gave Jill. She was 13 when they first met at a church in Carmel where Andy’s father was a pastor. He was 14 at the time. Their first date was a year later when Andy took Jill to a Homecoming Dance. They will mark 33 years of marriage in June.

“I feel wonderful,” said Jill. “I am blessed to have a new kidney. I am blessed for my husband’s gift of life.”

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.