Siblings celebrate longest-lasting kidney transplant in Christ Hospital history

Transplant 39 years ago saved brother's life
Rick Schwab and Beth Stevens
Posted at 12:14 AM, Apr 30, 2022

CINCINNATI — Every year in January, Rick Schwab and his sister Beth Stevens go somewhere special — they might see the sunrise on the east coast of Florida and race across the state in time for the sun setting in the west.

Whatever it is, wherever they go, it’s a celebration of life, love and Beth’s lifesaving gift to her big brother more than 39 years ago. She donated her kidney to him in a surgery that required doctors to remove one of her ribs.

“I was in (the hospital) for a week,” Stevens said. “And he was in for two!”

Kidney transplantation surgery has changed dramatically since then. Organs are removed from the donor laparoscopically and recovery times for both the donor and recipient are significantly shorter. Recipients are told they can live for a decade — maybe two — and perhaps longer with their new kidney. Schwab’s has lasted nearly 40 years.

“I’ve lived longer after the transplant than I did before,” Schwab said.

His donated kidney, which he named “Butch," is still healthy and strong.

Schwab's transplant is a record-holder for duration at Christ Hospital, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of having a kidney transplant program.

”I don’t think people realize how long we’ve been doing transplants here at Christ,” said Shelly Deyhle, Christ Hospital’s director of transplant administration.

As of late April, the hospital had performed 2,235 kidney transplants. That number will rise nearly every week.

“We had 1,110 living donors,” Deyhle said. “I think that’s pretty impressive.”

Schwab’s surgery has made him a true believer in living donation. He relishes taking the chance to talk about how his life was saved by his sister’s brave act and how he has been able to watch his nieces and nephews grow into adults and have children of their own.

“I never would have experienced that ... if it wasn’t for the transplant, if it wasn’t for Beth," Schwab said.

Schwab said he hopes he and his sister can be the face of hope.

“For somebody that maybe is on dialysis, hoping to get a kidney, somebody that’s on dialysis, hoping to find a donor or somebody that’s hoping to celebrate their first anniversary, or their fifth, or whatever it is: you can’t ever give up," Schwab said. "Never, ever, ever give up.”

As for his sister, Stevens said she wishes she could donate again.

“It would be worth it,” said Stevens. “Even if it meant a week stay in the hospital.”

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