Husband gives wife kidney transplant days before Christmas - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Husband gives wife kidney transplant days before Christmas

Kirk Openlander will donate his kidney to his wife Heather who suffers from polycystic kidney disease. (Credit: Kirk Openlander) Kirk Openlander will donate his kidney to his wife Heather who suffers from polycystic kidney disease. (Credit: Kirk Openlander)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

Just days before Christmas, a husband gave his wife the gift of a lifetime.

Kirk Openlander gave his wife his kidney Thursday morning.

“If I could give both of them to her, I would,” said Kirk Openlander.

The two met on a blind date 16 years ago. They love to travel and explore the world, but over the last few years things have gotten worse for Heather Openlander.

“It’s made us sort of put our lives on hold,” said Heather.

Heather was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) when she was 18. Her mother had it. Her sister has it. In September she had her left kidney removed, she’s been on dialysis for months.

Over the summer they learned Kirk was a match for a transplant.

“Let’s get it done. People at work, neighbors, they've asked me if I’m nervous, not at all,” said Kirk without hesitation. “This girl's my life.”

They both went into surgery simultaneously. A task undertaken by top notch surgeons at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

Jason Wellen, MD, surgical director of the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program operated on Kirk.

Once his kidney was removed, they took it next door to Surendra Shenoy, MD, a Washington University transplant surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who will operate on Heather.

“It’s something we take very seriously because we have two loved ones friends or family members in the [operating room] simultaneously,” explained Dr. Wellen.

Across the country 17,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant every year. There are only 7,000 cadaver kidneys available. People who don’t have a living donor available have to wait on a wait-list for 3-5 years according to Dr. Wellen.

That’s the message the Openlanders want others to take away from their story.

“He’s saving my life,” said Heather. “Now he thinks he doesn’t have to give me any presents from now on, but I feel blessed. I’m a lucky girl.”

You can find more information on how to be donor and to register at organdonor.gov.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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