MAINEVILLE, Ohio - Do you believe in fate? That people are put in your path, in your life, for a purpose?
Susan Winkler might make you a believer.
"The outdoors is my passion," Winkler said.
That's Winkler's motto and she lives it. The Maineville woman is active. She travels, she hikes, she camps.
And she holds down a demanding job as the assistant director of food and beverage at the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason.
Susan looks and acts like any other healthy 43-year-old woman, but she's not.
For 33 years, since she was 10, she's had juvenile diabetes.
"You lose your appetite. You're nauseous all the time," Winkler said. "You throw up a lot. You don't sleep."
And while she looks just fine, she's ill. Very ill.
She's surviving on only 10 percent kidney function. Winkler is in what's considered Stage 5 renal kidney failure.
"With 10 percent kidney function, it takes it's toll. At some point, your luck runs out," Winkler said.
Winkler is at that unlucky point. The diabetes has destroyed her kidneys. She needs a life-saving transplant now, or she needs to start dialysis.
"It's three times a week, roughly four hours each time that you're hooked up to a machine that pulls the blood out of your system, filters it and puts it back in," Winkler said.
If she doesn't get a kidney transplant in a matter of days, doctors say she won't have a choice. They will put her on dialysis.
"Ten percent is kind of their cut-off mark, where regardless of how good you feel, we are gonna do it anyway," Winkler said.
Winkler's list of possible living donors is small. She's adopted and none of her family members can donate or are blood matches.
The next step is asking friends to be tested or go on an official donor list.
"And once you're on a list, you wait. It's a waiting game. You know, you could be on that list a few weeks or a few years," Winkler said.
Sometimes, though, things take an unexpected, lucky turn.
Winkler was alone at work when she recently learned she's getting the kidney she needs.
"The human resources person walked by and asked if I was okay," Winkler recalled. "And I just burst into tears. And I'm like, ‘I got a kidney!' And I'm crying, I'm laughing. I'm happy you know. I've got my phone out and I'm like, ‘I gotta call everybody.'"
It turns out, Winkler's brother, Mark, is married to 9 News anchor Tanya O'Rourke's sister, Renee. And though they aren't blood-related, O'Rourke asked to be tested to see if she was Winkler's kidney match.
As fate would have it, O'Rourke is.
"So you and I are not blood related at all, but they say we are a terribly close match," O'Rourke asked Winkler.
"Yes," Winkler acknowledged.
"Incredibly close," O'Rourke went on.
"Yes," said Winkler. "I was told that if we were any more of a match, we'd be twins."
A link few would have expected that's coming in the nick of time for a person who has so much more of life to explore.
"I don't look sick, I don't act sick, I don't feel sick, but bottomline, I'm sick… This is saving my life," Winkler said.
Friday morning, Susan and O'Rourke had surgery so O'Rourke could give her the kidney she needs. O'Rourke can live a perfect life with just one kidney.
The surgery went well and the new kidney functioned properly before surgery was complete.
Both women are well after the surgery. For more on Tanya's condition, watch 9 News at 5:30 p.m.
O'Rourke will be gone for about a month recovering. She will check in on her Facebook page , so you can keep up with the process. Visit that page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tanya-ORourke/163683530387167 .
For more on O'Rourke's decision and why she decided to donate a kidney visit http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/the-decision-to-donate .
9 News will bring you more stories not just about O'Rourke and Winkler, but about the incredible power you have to donate and really save someone's life.
For more information on kidney donation and how you can become a donor to save lives, visit the related links below.
The Christ Hospital Kidney Transplant Information: http://www.thechristhospital.com/?id=44&sid=1
Cleveland Clinic: http://www.clevelandclinic.org/lp/kidney-transplantation-guide/index.html?utm_campaign=CS+-+Urology+-+DR+-+Kidney+Transplant&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bingppc&utm_term=kidney+transplant&002=2156527&004=269957484&005=5171487927&006=193364985&009=p&011=faq%20about%20kidney%20transplant
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