Fishers police captain trades own kidney for wife's match

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) -- With the donation of one of his kidneys, Fishers Police Captain Andy Dietz has ensured that whenever his wife Jill is in need of a living donor kidney, she'll have one. 

The program is called Advance Donation Process through the National Kidney Registry. The National Kidney Registry isn't the general list of people in need of a kidney; it's a select group of people who are entered in because a loved one has donated a kidney in their honor. The donated kidney matches with someone else in the group, and puts the registry in debt to the honored loved one. When that person is in need of the kidney, the registry pays them back with a matching kidney from another living donor. 

"It's essentially a database," said Dr. Tim Taber, chief medical officer for the Indiana Donor Network and IU Health Physician, describing the National Kidney Registry. "And this company keeps a database of all these people who have incompatible donors and it goes in the database and the computer says this guy could go to this guy, and this guy could go to this guy." 

The program quickly became the best option for Capt. Andy Dietz and his wife, Jill. 

"About 12 years ago, my wife Jill, we found out she was in renal failure which means her kidneys were failing," said Andy. 

But Jill Dietz wasn't in need of just a kidney.

Jill has been a diabetic since childhood, and doctors recommended a double organ transplant: a pancreas to eliminate her diabetes, and a kidney to fix her renal failure. Due to the double-organ transplant process, Andy was not required to give his kidney. Jill's first pancreas transplant was unsuccessful so she underwent another, and through that process, her body developed antibodies to Andy's blood, eliminating him from the pool of donors who could help when her new kidney would eventually give out in eight years. 

"It's a little bit of heartbreak, because he really wanted to give me that kidney," said Jill. 

Sure enough, four years ago, IU Health physicians discovered Jill was in renal failure and in need of a second kidney transplant and recommended the National Kidney Registry. 

"They said go home and think about it over the weekend. We called them an hour later and said of course. We're ready to go," remembered Andy. 

As Andy prepared for the surgery that would guarantee Jill a spot on the living donor National Kidney Registry, he felt like he was still donating to her through a more circuitous route. 

"There's a phrase they use and it basically said, 'If you've got a spare, why don't you share?' A human can live with only one kidney so I looked at it that way, that I could help," said Andy. 

Andy's kidney went to a woman in California and the Dietz family was informed she was doing very well. Now, Andy and Jill are just waiting for Jill's kidney function to drop to a certain low level to warrant transplant for a new kidney. 

"My wait should be 2-3 months versus 3-5 years," said Jill. 

According to Donate Life America, one in four living donors are not biologically related to the recipient. Dr. Taber says patients who are able to receive a living donor transplant receive an organ that lasts an average of two years longer than those who receive from a deceased donor. 

"Someone is added to the list every 10 mintues. Someone dies on the list almost every hour," said Dr. Taber. "Living donation fills a void for us in trying to get people transplanted." 

More than 115,000 people are awaiting organ transplants. Dr. Taber says right now, about one third of organ donations come from living donors. 

With those odds, Andy Dietz says he's grateful to have ensured his grade-school sweetheart isn't leaving him anytime soon. 

"It was a wonderufl thing to do for your best friend," he said. 

Captain Dietz is back to full duty at the Fishers Police Department, after a four week recovery period following his surgery. 

Visit the National Kidney Registry's website to learn more about donating in honor of a loved one, or starting a chain of transplants by being a general donor to the registry.  

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