ST. JOE — For the past six-plus years, Adam Crow’s daily activities basically have consisted of two things.
“I pretty much worked and did dialysis,” said Crow, 39, of St. Joe.
Crow would spend 10 hours on dialysis — supposedly while he slept — before going to his job in industrial maintenance the next morning.
“It’s factored into every decision,” he said of his dialysis.
Now, thanks to the gift of a kidney from his sister, Amy (Crow) Lehrman, 36, of Hoagland, Crow is looking forward to completing tasks that many would take for granted.
“Try and get some stuff done around the house really. That’s my goal. Get some stuff done I haven’t been able to get done,” Crow said.
Crow received his transplanted kidney from his sister on April 11 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
The 6 1/2-year-long road to the transplant began after Crow fell ill and soon afterward was found to be in stage 4 kidney failure. He started on dialysis in January 2016 and it was determined a short time later that he would need a transplant.
Crow and Lehrman, who are the children of Mark and Donna Crow of St. Joe, would go through the transplant testing procedure twice — first in 2016 through I.U. Health and in 2021 through St. Vincent’s.
After testing in 2016, Lehrman received the call that her kidney was a perfect match for her brother.
“That’s the best case scenario. That’s like winning the lottery — to give the recipient a perfect-match kidney,” she said.
Crow’s other sister, Anna, also went through the testing procedure and was found to be a good match, but not perfect.
“As soon as I got the phone call that I was a perfect match, I mean, there was never a doubt in my mind that if I was a match I would do it. It was an emotional process … but there was never a doubt in my mind that I would do it,” Lehrman said.
But plans took a detour after Lehrman — already the mother of two children — was advised by a surgeon to wait to donate her kidney if she was planning to continue to grow her family.
“All along, the thing that was in the back of my mind was I knew that I wanted to have a third kid, and so that was the one thing I needed to get clarity on,” she said.
At that time, Anna was not planning to have children so she was planning to step in and donate her kidney, Lehrman said.
“We met with the surgeon and I remember the surgeon said, ‘Well, if you know you’re going to have a third kid, you should do that first before you do the transplant. Because if you do the transplant, you have to wait a year before you get pregnant again and then you’re automatically high risk.’ And I was already in my mid-30s and getting older. I made the difficult decision at that point to wait, and Anna was going to step in and do it,” Lehrman said.
“By that time, Adam’s disease was still pretty rampant. From what I remember, they stopped her and told her they wanted him to have a kidney from somebody who was older than him and she was younger than him.”
For a few years, they just waited.
“I had my third kid and then when my youngest was about a year old, I called Adam — this would have been in, I think, November of 2020 — I called him and said I was ready to start the process again,” Lehrman said.
After switching to St. Vincent’s for the procedure, Crow and Lehrman had to re-do all of their tests prior to the transplant.
“Other than me telling Adam in November of 2020 that I was ready to do it again, he didn’t know that I was going through the process ... I didn’t tell anybody I was doing any of this testing. I think my husband was the only one that knew.” Lehrman said.
“The first time I went through it, I was very open every step of the way — told everybody what was going on, what testing I was doing, how it went — and I felt like I got Adam’s hopes up. And then when I had to back out, that was really hard, a really hard thing to do. And so this time around, just in case something happened, I didn’t want to get his hopes up again, because at this point, it had been five or six years he’d been waiting for a kidney. This whole time he had been on the (donor transplant) list … and hadn’t gotten a phone call.”
Finally, she was forced to tell her brother she was completing the testing process so that he could finish his testing, she explained.
The transplant surgery was scheduled for March 2, but things took another detour when Crow became sick with an infection and was hospitalized 10 days prior to the scheduled surgery.
Just prior to being hospitalized with the infection, he received a phone call saying a kidney from the donor list was available for him.
“It wasn’t a perfect match and it was a deceased donor,” Lehrman said.
“He called me … and said, ‘I got a call. They have a kidney for me. I think I’m going to take it.’”
Explaining his reasons for opting to take the kidney, Crow told Lehrman, “Well, you’ve got three little kids at home and I don’t want you to have to go through the surgery if you don’t have to.”
Lehrman said she told her brother he deserved to have whatever would give him the best chance of success.
“You can’t get any better than a living donor that’s a perfect match, so I said, ‘I think you should stick with the plan and take my kidney,’” she said.
“He had the opportunity, in my eyes, to go save somebody else’s life by passing on that kidney because he had a kidney ready to go. So that’s the decision he ultimately made — to give that kidney to somebody else.”
Also, Lehrman noted, the donor coordinator told her that if he had taken that kidney when he got that phone call, and his infection was brewing prior to him falling ill, it would have killed the new kidney and the transplant would have failed.
“I think God works in mysterious ways and I think it all worked out how it was supposed to,” she said.
“I’d spent six years thinking about this. I knew what the risks were. I knew what I was getting myself into. I told him, ‘I’m willing to do it. I’m ready to do it. I want to do it.’ To be able to give that to your brother — I wanted him to be able to see his daughter get married and see his son graduate high school and all the life things.”
After the surgery was complete, the medical team marveled at the condition of the transplanted kidney.
“All the doctors, all the nurses, everybody could not believe how well she had prepared that kidney,” Crow’s wife, Ashley, said of her sister-in-law.
“They all seemed very impressed with it,” Crow said of his new kidney.
“They said it was a rock star kidney,” Lehrman added with a smile.
In preparation for the surgery, Lehrman had begun working with a personal trainer six or seven months prior, and had been drinking 100 ounces of water a day leading up to the surgery. She will have to continue drinking 100 ounces of water a day for the rest of her life, she said.
Ashley Crow said words cannot express her family’s gratitude for Lehrman’s gift.
“‘Thank you’ seems so insignificant. We’ve all said thank you a million times,” she said.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m glad it’s over,” Lehrman said. “I hope it (the kidney) lasts for 50 years.”