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Milestone kidney transplant sheds light on living donors

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A milestone moment for a local hospital system is outshined by the heartwarming story that made it happen.

Ascension St. Vincent performed its 800th kidney transplant this spring after a local woman donated her kidney to a former high school classmate.

Tiffanie Stall finds comfort in a sense of company, as she walks into the Kidney Center at Ascension St. Vincent. She’s greeted with kindness in person and by symbols of fellow living donors along the walls.

“These are glass knobs that the living donors get to make and I was the 156th living donor,” Stall said. “It is kind of a relief to know that these many people have been through the same thing I have.”

Her piece of art featuring the Donate Life logo will be added soon. However, she says saving a life this way is something she never expected to do.

“Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? 100%,” Stall said.

This all started with Adrian Butler. He’s a father and a private person who suffered from polycystic kidney disease since his 20s and ended up with kidney failure. In desperation, his wife posted on Facebook in October of 2022.

“She had just posted that Adrian was in need of a kidney. And I hadn’t seen or talked to Adrian in a couple of years — at least,” Stall said.

The two went to Warren Central High School in Indianapolis together. Back then, Butler was friends with Stall’s brother. They weren’t strangers, but it had been years since they even spoke. Still, Stall decided to see if she was a match.

“I just prayed, ‘If this isn’t in God’s will, there will be a sign.’ Then, every step of the way, it kind of just answered a prayer, that this was supposed to happen,” Stall said.

Tiffanie & Adrian at Ascension St. Vincent. (Provided Photo/Ascension St. Vincent)

To donate, Stall had to meet with staff and undergo some simple blood and urine tests, along with various scans. She also had to have a matching blood type or type O blood and some minor antigens that match.

“She called me and she said, ‘You are a match,’ which is crazy,” Stall said. “I cried.”

It was a huge surprise and relief to Butler. While he did not want to speak on camera, he did want his story told in order to promote living donations. 

The surgery happened in March.

“We named the kidney Lefty, so they took my left kidney,” Stall said.

“Lefty” saved Butler’s life, and after one night in the hospital, Stall was ready to go home.

“They take an entire organ you don’t even realize you lose. It is kind of crazy — you go through that whole process and feel completely fine,” Stall said.

Now, her mission is to spread the message of living donations.

“My road takes me more as an advocate of living donation. ‘Hey it’s possible,’ and it’s definitely doable,” Stall said.

Dr. Abdul Moiz is the medical director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Ascension St. Vincent and says they always aim to strive for living donations

“We need to spread the word about living donation. In America, there are about 120,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant, and unfortunately, we only do about 15,000 transplants a year. So there is a shortage of kidneys. Living donations are something that can bridge this gap,” Dr. Moiz said.

Moiz went on to say that living donations offer the best chance of survival for the kidney and the patient. There are also donor swap options; if people are not a match for the person they know, they can still help someone else and swap with another donor to help their preferred patient.

As for donors?

“You can expect a normal lifestyle and lifespan,” Moiz said. “Basically, once your incision heals, you can go back to your normal lifestyle. You’re not expected to change anything, you can lead the same life you were living before the transplant. You can travel and live your life as you were. There is no change in your life after the transplant.”

Stall is proof. She now carries a keychain around that says “Share your Spare,” a message that she plans to share for the rest of her life.

To talk to a kidney transplant coordinator at Ascension St. Vincent, call 1-866-810-2449.

Ascenion St. Vincent’s Living donor program information:

“Our living donor program can give you more opportunity to find a match. If you have a family member or other individual who makes a good match, they may donate one of their kidneys. If your family member or other individual is not a match for you, don’t be discouraged—we offer a paired donor exchange program through the National Kidney Registry. Through the evaluation, transplant process and recovery, you and your donor will receive a personalized care plan.”

Ascension partners with the National Kidney Registry and UNOS to offer:

  • Directed Donation
  • Kidney Paired Donation
  • Advanced Donation
  • Good Samaritan Donation
  • Remote Donation
  • Family Voucher Donation

Visit the Ascension St. Vincent website to learn more about kidney transplants.