Farwell woman saves best friend’s life, donates kidney

July 31, 2015

Kelly Jarstfer and DeAnn Eichhorn have been best friends for decades. Now that Kelly has shared one of her kidneys with her, they share even more together – a lifetime of friendship they might not have had otherwise.

Kelly Jarstfer and DeAnn Eichhorn have been best friends for decades. Now that Kelly has shared one of her kidneys with her, they share even more together – a lifetime of friendship they might not have had otherwise.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

They say if you have a friend for seven years, you will have that friend for life.
DeAnn Eichhorn and Kelly Jarstfer, both of Farwell, are friends for life – and for DeAnn’s life as well, after Kelly gave her that ultimate gift when she donated her kidney last week to save her friend’s life.

The two have been best friends for more than 21 years, Kelly said, “since we worked together as para-pros at Farwell schools.” She continued we knew each other before that through other friends and then we became best friends.”

DeAnn has suffered with a host of health problem over the years; a brain tumor and Lupus which led to her kidney failing. “Two and a half years ago, she went on the transplant list for a new kidney,” Kelly said. “I wanted to donate one, but it just wasn’t financially possible.”

“Her health kept deteriorating, Kelly said. “Then in January, DeAnn gave me a pamphlet that explained that donating a kidney wouldn’t cost me anything. She didn’t want to ask, but I wanted to do it. I immediately started investigating the possibility of donating one of my kidneys to her.”
‘It was a long process,” Kelly continued, “There were lots of blood tests and when they all came back I found out in March that I was a perfect match. I couldn’t wait to tell her. That just doesn’t happen very often. I think I was meant to do this.” After extensive counseling and even more tests the two were finally scheduled for surgery on July 24.

Kelly said, “When you realize God has put something into your mind and you follow it, you know it is what you were meant to do. We had a lot of encouragement and support for this. It would have been much harder without the prayers and support of our family and friends in the area.”
“We had people from all over the world praying for us,” she said.

DeAnn said, “When I had dialysis July 3, a worker there told me how amazing it was that Kelly and I were a perfect match. Even siblings aren’t always a match. The fact that she was a match for me was awesome. The average wait in Michigan for a kidney is five to seven years.”

“That’s why it’s so important to be an organ donor. We really need to have people make that decision with their family to be an organ donor and put it on their driver’s license. It gives people life and is truly incredible,” DeAnn added.

Family members were with both Kelly and DeAnn for the surgery at the University Of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor.
Kelly said the surgery last Friday went well (her operation was first) and once her kidney was in DeAnn’s body, “It started working perfectly immediately.” Even the recovery has been faster than expected. Kelly was released from the hospital the next day and DeAnn, who expected a seven-day stay, was released on Monday and is now recuperating at home.

It’s a new life, DeAnn said. I’ve had Lupus since I was ten years old. That’s what caused my kidney failure. I haven’t felt this good for most of my adult life. I am feeling so much better every day now.

She continued, “My husband and parents said Kelly had incredible courage and a smile was on her face through everything, no matter what. I’m happy I get to be her friend for the rest of my life and that we will be able to do things together. I think we are going to have some pretty fun adventures.”

“She is feeling and looking better than she has in a long time,” Kelly said. Just two or three weeks ago DeAnn was so sick she couldn’t walk. Even though she didn’t want to, she had to have dialysis. Now she is looking and feeling great.”

Kelly added, “I think I am the fortunate one. If I hadn’t done this I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. This is what I was supposed to do.”

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