GREENVILLE — One of the best things that happened to Brian Montgomery in 2015 was a kidney transplant. That took place on Jan. 27 this year at Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus.
“I was born with chronic renal failure,” said Montgomery who lives in Greenville. “My kidneys would eventually give out.”
He underwent dialysis three years before he was put on a waiting list.
Deb Winterrowd decided to donate a kidney to him. She is the wife of one of Montgomery’s good friends, Ty Winterrowd.
“My kidneys were not functioning at all,” said Montgomery, who will be celebrating his 40th birthday on Aug. 10 in the new year. “Growing up, I had lots of surgeries….over 14. I spent lots of time in the hospital with tubes inside of me. I was diagnosed at birth after they found something wrong with my stomach.”
He did say that before he would get placed on the transplant list, he had to undergo gastric bypass surgery because of his weight issues. He is now 155 pounds lighter.
Since the transplant, Montgomery is feeling much better.
“It’s great to be off dialysis,” he said. “It was life-challenging. I’m a lot happier and not as tired. I have a lot more energy, allowing me to walk. When I was on dialysis, I’d go home and sleep. I make sure I walk everyday and get out, sometimes three or four times a day, depending on the weather.”
Now, he likes to hang out with lots of friends, watch videos, play video games and write poetry. Montgomery, who also works out on his elliptical machine glider, said he loves football and noted that the Ravens are his favorite team.
And, he wants to get more involved in the community.
On the first anniversary of his transplant, he will be undergoing a checkup with a biopsy scheduled to check out his health.
His mother and brother take him to medical visits.
Montgomery said he was born in Virginia, with the family moving here when he was 5. His parents are Martha Montgomery and the late Lowell Montgomery.
He said of Winterrowd, “She was a match and donated out of the kindness of her heart.”
He went on, “My brother Anthony was going to see if he could donate, but he got caught up in his work and couldn’t. Then Deb’s came through.”
Does he feel different with another kidney?
“I may have a woman’s personality as far as feelings,” he said. “One thing that pulled me through this is my faith in God. I can’t express how important that was for me. If I didn’t have that, I probably would have fallen apart.”
Winterrowd, who has been a registered nurse for four years, was asked why she opted to donate a kidney to Montgomery.
“Really it is quite simple…if you have something that someone needs you give it to them,” she said. “When I asked him his blood type and he said O, it was confirmation for me that I was to give. I am very strong in my faith and felt it wasn’t a question. I was to give. I felt the calling and confirmation to do so. It was a long process as one year before I decided to donate I had had brain surgery to have a mass removed. It was a year of getting healthy enough myself from finding out I was a match to donation day. The community rallied around my husband and me during my health struggle, so what a way to be able to pay it forward, eh?”
She continued, “When someone needs something, you just don’t hesitate… you give. If someone in front of you in the grocery line is a couple dollars short, you don’t think about it, you just give it. Brian happened to need a kidney. I could live totally fine with one. I didn’t have to think about, I just gave. That’s how I see it. Although, I realize there’s a lot of darkness in the world and not all choose to just give when someone needs something, but I like to focus on the light of the world.”
Winterrowd had more to say, “There have been so many angels that impacted Ty and me during my health battle and actually an anonymous angel just a few days ago paid the remaining balance on my upcoming Guatemala mission trip. $650! That’s along with all the other angels who made the mission trip possible for me by donating. They aren’t angels only to me but to those we will be serving in Guatemala. Amongst such darkness in the world, there is truly so much light if we just open our eyes to see it and our hearts to try to be part of the light.”
She said she even got to know her favorite author, who gave a kidney in a swap so her husband could receive one.
“How cool is that?,” she asked. “Amy Clipston [the author] wrote a book about her experience called ‘The Gift of Love.’ We’ve kept in touch ever since, and she even texted me while I was in the hospital.”
Winterrowd also pointed out that husband Ty was also tested but wasn’t a match for Montgomery.
“So, Ty gave in the way of working extra so that I could be off work during recovery,” said Debra, who said she has no children except for what she called two furry ones. “I want people to know that you don’t have to be related or even know a person who needs a kidney. You can donate to a complete stranger if you feel called to do so. The number to the OSU kidney donation center is 614-293-6724.”
She has been put on some limitations as a donor.
“I do of course have to be careful with not taking much of certain medications that are hard on the kidneys, but other than that life hasn’t changed,” she said. “Many people would tell me what a blessing I was to give my kidney to Brian, but truthfully I felt and continue to feel like the blessed one. It was such an honor to be able to give to Brian. I honestly can’t adequately put it into words other than he needed a kidney, I had one to give so it wasn’t a question of willingness on my part. It was a pure blessing and honor to have a part in helping Brian have a higher quality of life. I’m not sure why God chose me, but He did. I never second guess Him. I merely obeyed and did so joyfully and with honor. Brian is such a wonderful guy. Good thing I married Ty so that I too could become friends with him. I love how God works.”
Winterrowd said most days she doesn’t even realize that she has only one kidney.
She did say that after recovery from the kidney transplant, she is feeling well.
“I am feeling good as far as the kidney donation goes,” said Debra, who moved to the Greenville area when she married Ty in 2009. “Unfortunately I’ve had more issues as far as my brain goes so have struggled a bit since donation but not because of donation. I have gotten a couple of kidney infections and some stones in my remaining kidney, but I don’t want people to think that’s the norm after donation. I simply need to be on top of drinking water to flush my kidney well. Soda just tastes so much better.”
She grew up in Pennsylvania and lived in the Youngstown area before moving here. Her maiden name is Baumgartner.
Winterrowd and Montgomery stay in touch by texting each other and seeing how each other are doing.