Make your home page

Woman donates kidney to bus driver’s wife, a complete stranger

Woman donates kidney to stranger in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A woman from Indianapolis got a life-changing gift from a complete stranger who was riding her husband’s bus.

In a News 8 exclusive, Dan Klein say down with both couples on Monday afternoon just two weeks removed from surgery.

“Joyce is definitely my savior,” said Valerie Scott.

They both said it’s a miracle. It’s only because the plans changed for both of them that Joyce Smith was on Rex Scott’s Brew Tour Bus.

It all started with an offhand joke from Rex.

“Before he let us off the bus, he also said he takes kidney as a tip,” said Smith.

It was a warm August day, but the 24th was a day that changed Valerie’s life. Rex was not even supposed to be driving that day.

“If he had not made that joke, none of this would have happened,” said Smith.

Smith went on an Indy Brew Bus with bride-to-be Heather Musch and two fellow bridesmaids.

It’s a group also bonded by a need.

Musch needs a kidney, prompting Smith to spend months to become a viable donor, making countless doctor visits from Tippecanoe County to St. Vincent in Indianapolis.

Only Musch, who is already a transplant recipient, still isn’t healthy enough to be on the list. Smith’s limited window was closing soon, until that joke.

“I can’t take my car with me and I can’t take all these organs with me so whatever I can do now, I want to do,” Smith said.

Those who know Smith aren’t surprised.

Between natural-born, adopted, fosters and guardians, she and her husband James care for nine kids, including one who was a kidney transplant recipient six years ago.

Her dad got the gift of life in the form of a liver transplant when she was a child.

“I just wanted to make the same difference in other kids’ lives that I as shown in my life,” she said.

That difference now made in Valerie’s life.

On Monday afternoon, James, Joyce, Valerie and Rex sat and chatted like old friends inside the Scott home on the near eastside.

But this conversation is only the fourth time the women have ever met.

“It was either dialysis or transplant,” remembers Valerie.

For seven years, Valerie has dealt with polycystic kidney disease. Her kidneys are now the size of small footballs, still growing but losing function.

Her mother had the same disease and received a kidney 17 years ago.

For this to work, it takes not just a willing donor but a match in both blood type and six antigens.

That perfect stranger for Valerie happened to be on that bus that day, one of five that Indy Brew Bus typically runs. Smith and her friends were only there because their initial plan fell through.

“I made that joke and you caught on,” Rex said with a laugh.

“God picked out the best person. He knew what he was doing that whole time,” Smith adds. “It wasn’t a stranger in God’s eyes.”

“Whether you believe in God or not, someone had a hand in this. There’s no way this would have worked out otherwise,” Valerie said.

There can be some nervous moments.

For months, hoping that the stranger didn’t get a change of heart.

But Rex and Valerie said once the initial shock wore off, they never doubted. For her part, Smith said she hasn’t seen the kidney as hers for months.

“Because the day I decided to give it away was the last day it was mine,” she said. “I’m just holding onto it for someone else at that point.”

The date of the surgeries was Jan 20, the 13-year anniversary of the passing of Smith’s dad, on the list again for a transplant.

It was also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Of all the sacrifices to give someone on a day like that, it’s just amazing,” Valerie said.

“If you got one, give one,” adds Smith.

Both women are doing well, a little bit sore, but that’s about all.

“She doesn’t understand how much she has changed my whole life,” Valerie said.

She can already see a huge difference in energy.

She used to sleep 12 hours and still be exhausted. Now she’s getting half that and ready to go, once she’s cleared to be more active.

As for Musch, she was married one week after the Indy Brew Bus experience.

Smith said she was a little nervous to tell her, but Musch has been 100% behind this. But for now, she’s not healthy enough to be on the transplant list, so that’s one major thing they’re praying for.