Steve and Teresa O’Bryan have shared love and a business partnership for years now they share a kidney.
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH – (September 23, 2020) – Steve and Teresa O’Bryan have shared the bond of marriage since 1984. On July 21st this year, Teresa shared the gift of life with Steve. She donated a kidney to save her husband’s life.
That’s not where the story starts, nor ends for them. Their story of “Giving the Gift of Life” began on July 25, 1985. That’s the date Steve O’Bryan donated a kidney of his own to his sister Kathy. His sister needed a kidney, Steve was a match, he donated.
“She did great, Steve bounced back,” said Teresa. “We always celebrated on July 25th.”
It was before anybody knew the family had a hereditary syndrome called BORS which ultimately causes kidney failure among other things. They found out much later; after the birth of their youngest daughter Lauren in 1995. Teresa credits the exceptional care and research by Dr. Wilging, ENT specialist from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, in pinpointing the genetic disease affecting the family while treating Lauren for a cyst in her neck.
They learned Steve has the syndrome and two of their four children have it. Stefanie and Andrew do not, but Lauren and Ben do. They learned there would come a day when Steve would need a kidney transplant and there will come a day when kidney failure will require a transplant for Lauren and Ben also. Learning he would require a kidney transplant did not change how Steve felt toward donating to his sister Kathy those 35 years ago.
“I’d do it all over,” said Steve. “I’d do the same thing.”
Teresa would do the same thing too. In fact, during the slow, gradual process of watching Steve’s kidney function decreasing since 1995, she knew, if she was a match, she would donate the gift of life to her husband. She says the two have been through a lot in their marriage and as business partner’s running O’Bryans Wine & Spirits in Loveland together. It is her belief, and faith, that God has always seen them through things. This was no different for her. She was going to donate no matter what
“I felt like the Lord was talking to me . . .this is your time,” Teresa said. “It was like he was walking with me and going to see us through. No way he (Steve) could talk me out of it. Everything fell into place; my emotions soared and felt so much peace, Steve too.”
And so it was, despite any misgivings Steve may have felt about both of them going through surgery and recovery at the same time, Teresa was a match for Steve and donated a kidney giving the gift of life to her husband on July 21, this year.
“I was a little unsure, didn’t want both at the same time; didn’t want to put Teresa through it,” Steve said. “She was 100-percent go. Makes you feel good you have somebody that wants to do something like this for you – especially my wife. We’ve been through a lot in 37 years. The first year was when I donated to my sister.”
Teresa says a lot of tears were shed during a very emotional time both before and right after the surgery. She also remembers when the doctor first told them Steve would need a kidney one day, she said she’d always be there for him; that they would get through it. They are now two months post-transplant. Teresa had a brief setback from an unrelated issue, but says it has been easy and her recovery has gone well. Both of them are out walking together – though a little slower for Steve. Their message is strong: Donate Life. Give the gift of life.
“If you have a spare, you can share,” said Steve. “You can share your spare. We met so many people who donate to total strangers.”
“If you feel the call to donate to a loved one, dig deeper, you can get a great match,” said Teresa. “Help them, help others. One person can help 5-7 people; just sharing. It’s easy, you have two, you only need one. It is beautiful. I feel elation, empowered because I gave my husband the gift of life. It’s like an all-time high, yet humbling.”
Teresa and Steve O’Bryan share a lot more than the bond of marriage – they truly share the gift of life with one another and with others. That’s the message they want to get out. You don’t have to be a direct match to give the gift of life.
Learn more about kidney donation at www.kidneyregistry.org
Here is their story in Teresa’s own words:
Many of you know us and many have probably wondered why you haven’t seen us in the store lately. A year and a half ago, I, Teresa, semi-retired from the business to take care of our grandchildren and participate in the care of my ninety-nine-year-old mother. However, Steve is still an integral part of the business. He works from home and ventures in from time to time. Our two sons, Ben and Andrew, have stepped up to the plate in running our family-owned business on a daily basis. It’s a blessing that we are able to continue onward with the two of them having work ethics like their parents. Our business has been a part of us and the community for thirty-one years! To each of our patrons, you are the reason we are who we are; and we appreciate each of you!
On July 21st, I gave Steve the gift of life through a kidney transplant. However, our story started on July 25th, 1985, when Steve gave his sister, Kathy, her gift of life through kidney donation. At the time, all testing assured us that he was the perfect match. It wasn’t until 1994, after we had our fourth child, Lauren, that we found our family has Branchial Oto Renal Syndrome (BORS), a genetic disorder that affects the kidneys, ears, and neck. If it weren’t for a well-known ENT at Children’s Hospital, we would have never known that this syndrome was hereditary and was the culprit in Steve’s sister’s kidney failure. Shortly after Lauren was diagnosed, our son, Ben, started seeing a nephrologist. Finally, it all came together for the family. The awesome ENT and nephrology specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital helped us to find the answers to our numerous questions!
In 1995, Steve started spilling protein and was referred to a nephrologist. Unfortunately, we learned that he also had BORS. We were always told he would eventually need a transplant. However, since he donated a kidney, he would be put at the top of the transplant list. We bought time through routine doctor appointments, lab work, medicine, keeping active, and keeping our heart, mind, and soul alive through prayer. We always prayed that when he needed a kidney, God would grant him protection and I would be able to give him one of mine. The time finally came this year, and our prayers were answered! For this, we are grateful to our Lord! God is good!
In February, Steve came down with pneumonia. He was sick for thirty-six days, and it hit him hard! The toll it took on him was unbelievable, and what it did to his kidney function was earth-shattering! After his illness ran its course, he received an antibody test for Covid-19 which came back negative. To this day, we still second-guess that test! At any rate, while Steve’s kidney function was decreasing rapidly, life was at a standstill because of the pandemic. To say the least, this was one of the most difficult times in our lives!
Through much prayer and surrendering it to God, we persevered through the difficult time of not knowing how or even when Steve would get a transplant. Finally, on April 22nd, when Governor DeWine re-opened outpatient services, our quest began. We had already been in touch with the Nephrology Clinic Donor and Recipient Coordinators at Christ Hospital. We received the paperwork, and, within two days, we had all documents filled out, scanned, and sent. The day after outpatient services were opened, I became Steve’s biggest advocate. I called and made most appointments within a day. I reached out to the coordinators and to our family practitioner. When I faced obstacles in getting something scheduled, I didn’t stop. I was determined to get all testing done within a matter of weeks. If I didn’t hear back from a scheduler, I would call and then call again. I didn’t mind if anyone thought I was an overbearing, hard-headed woman. I became the squeaky wheel that gets the grease! By May 20th, the coordinator told us that I was a 98% match for Steve, but that further blood work needed to be done. Steve’s testing was also completed, but he needed more blood work, as well, before we could be given the green light for a transplant. Finally, on Thursday, June 11th, we were notified that the transplant was a go, and we chose to do it on July 21st.
In addition, Steve’s sister received her second gift of life on July 29th! Each transplant was separated by four days of her original transplant date of July 25th, 1985! We continue to praise and honor to our Lord for seeing us through every step of the way! Kathy’s donor was from South Dakota; her transplant took place because of a selfless friend who donated through the National Kidney Registry Paired Donation Program. Although Ellen was not a direct match for Kathy, she decided to continue with testing through Emory in Atlanta, GA. This made it possible for Kathy to receive a better match for her. Ellen gave the gift of life on January 23rd.
As I write this, we are four weeks post-op. I am back to my normal, energetic self and Steve is doing well. We have been told that his new kidney will start growing, and we will see his health continue to improve. For now, we must rest and be reassured that all will be well. I often refer to this journey as our very scary roller coaster ride.
If you know someone who is in need of a transplant, we are here to talk, to pray, and to listen. Be the advocate for your loved one! Don’t stop until you have exhausted all of your resources!
Isaiah 40:31 “Hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagle wings, they will run & not grow weary, walk & not grow faint.”
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know I am God.”
Thank you for reading our story.
Steve and Teresa O’Bryan