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Published: Wednesday, 4/14/2004

Archbold: Gift of kidney a selfless act of churchgoer

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ARCHBOLD - Sometimes, people give casseroles, cookies, or fresh-cut flowers to church members who are ill, but Bonnie Badenhop went way beyond bouquets and baked goods.

She gave her kidney.

During a several-hour procedure at Medical College of Ohio Hospitals in Toledo last week, her kidney was removed and transplanted into Jonathan Siewert, 32, of Wauseon. The donor and the recipient are members of St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Archbold where Mrs. Badenhop learned about Jonathan's need.

"I can't explain it. I think the Lord wanted me to do this," she said. "I don't think that the Siewerts expected anyone from our church to come forward."

But she did. "I went into it pretty blind," she said, but something was telling her "Bonnie, you can do this. You can at least try."

After talking it over with her husband, Jim, and doing homework, she picked up the telephone and called the Siewerts.

Al Siewert, Jonathan's father, remembers his initial reaction. "I was sort of in total shock, sort of speechlessness. This doesn't happen too often," he said.

When Mrs. Badenhop called, Jonathan's kidney was failing. He received a donor kidney about 2 1/2 years ago, but "he started rejecting that three or four months afterwards," said Mr. Siewert.

It was Jonathan's physician who suggested the family try to find a live donor, Mr. Siewert said. "The success rate is much better with a live donor."

Following the physician's recommendation, Mr. Siewert contacted the church. "I e-mailed into the church that there was a need. We realized that was an awful lot to ask. I guess that Bonnie felt very compelled to do this," he said.

Jonathan, who has had kidney disease since he was in second grade, initially was reluctant to accept Mrs. Badenhop's offer. "He was worried about Bonnie. He would feel terrible if something happened to her. It actually took a little talking to get him to accept it," Mr. Siewert said.

Mrs. Badenhop, 51, who works part-time at an elementary school in Archbold, underwent a battery of tests, both physical and psychological, as part of the

organ donation process.

Susan Schwartz, kidney transplant coordinator at the Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, said that Mrs. Badenhop did a lot of research as part of the lengthy process.

Mrs. Badenhop had her daughter, 17-year-old Keri, and her son, 12 year-old Jacob, tested. "I was assured I wouldn't be a match" in case they might someday need a kidney transplant," Mrs. Badenhop said.

MCO handles about 70 transplants a year - about 25 of those from living donors.

There's a shortage of cadaveric donors, said Mrs. Schwartz, which is one reason why there has been an increasing interest in live donations. Across the country, 83,000 people are waiting for organs. Of that number, 53,000 are waiting for a kidney transplant, she said.

Rarely does anyone call and offer to donate his or her kidney to a stranger, Mrs. Schwartz said. "It is unusual."

MCO gets maybe half a dozen calls a year from altruistic donors. "It is just heroic," she said about such donors, including Mrs. Badenhop.

Mrs. Badenhop says she knows she made the right decision to reach out. To the Siewerts, to Jonathan. To give him her kidney. To give him a gift from her heart.

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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