When Vandalia’s Renee Goeppner saw an inspiring friend’s health continue to decline last Christmas, it weighed heavily on her heart.
Her friend, Chris Mattox, of Springfield, has the genetic condition polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which has no cure.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, PKD causes numerous cysts to grow in the kidneys. These cysts are filled with fluid. If too many cysts grow or if they get too big, the kidneys can become damaged. PKD cysts can slowly replace much of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure.
Needless to say, Mattox needed a kidney transplant and Goeppner wanted to see how she could help.
“Chris is one of these type people like me, who would do anything he can to help everyone else but won’t ask for help,” Goeppner said. “I knew the situation was getting dire when he was starting dialysis.”
She contacted the University of Kansas Hospital (KU Hospital), whom Mattox was working with, in April to see if she was a suitable donor.
She already knew the two had the same blood type.
A test was taken in mid-June and she proved to be a suitable donor.
Surgeons Dr. Sean Kumer and Dr. Timothy Schmitt scheduled an August 5 surgery.
During the surgery, Goeppner’s kidney was surgically placed inside Mattox’s body. The area was stapled and the kidney was functioning immediately.
Meanwhile, Goeppner said she was worn out from the surgery.
“They told me when you go in that the donor would feel a lot worse than the recipient,” she noted. “It would be like a truck ran over you.”
Goeppner was released after two days.
Mattox remained in the hospital and went home three days later. He went back due to some fluid retention, but once it was resolved, he was reportedly doing well and returned to work on October 1.
“Like I’ve told him all along, the world is a much better place with him in it,” Goeppner said. “I did it for him and I did it for his daughter (who is in college.) I just wanted them to have a long, happy life together.”
Goeppner said she was thankful she could help out her friend.
“I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, knowing it went so well and it helped him so much,” she said.
Goeppner, who works at WERDCC in Vandalia, said she does notice from time to time that her energy levels now go up and down.
Goeppner and Mattox became good friends when the two of them worked at the Ozark Correctional Center.
Mattox served in a reserve unit and was deployed in late 2006. He served overseas for 10 months.
His service inspired Goeppner to join the National Guard in early 2007, though she officially was sworn in during mid-August of that year.
Three weeks later, she received orders to report for active service.
She had previously had an opportunity to enlist but passed it up. Mattox’s service was the inspiration she needed.
Goeppner received a medical discharge in May 2013.
Goeppner is the mother of two sons, ages 18 and 25.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are currently 101,170 people in the U.S. awaiting kidney transplants.
There were only 16,896 transplants in 2013, with 11,163 coming from deceased donors and 5,733 coming from living donors.
Goeppner noted that she’s an advocate for donating blood and platelets regularly.
“If you can’t give an organ, give blood if you can,” she said. “It’s a big help.”