KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s the two year anniversary for a special couple we’ve been following, and it’s not for their wedding.
It’s been two years since Heather Winfree gave her husband Steve the gift of life through organ donation.
The video went viral; Steve Winfree, sitting on a porch swing with his wife, looking at baseball cards. It’s one of his favorite past-times.
Little did he know, Heather had planted a custom made card of him in the stack he was holding, one that brought him to tears.
It read, in part, “…now Steve will be a rookie recipient at Vanderbilt Transplant Center.” She was heard in the background saying, “I found out today that I’m a match, and you could be getting a kidney by the end of this month!”
Steve, overcome with emotion, learning tests revealed his wife’s kidney was a perfect match. Years of waiting for a transplant were soon to be over.
“She saved my life,” Steve saying, “there’s no other way to put it.”
“I just feel like we were already one,” Heather reveals. “You know, this was just an extension of those vows.”
In video, the Winfrees only recently looked at, you see the concern on Steve’s face the day of the surgery back in September 2017. It’s just one of the behind the scenes moments captured by Vanderbilt Transplant Center.
You see the two in pre-op, side by side, holding hands. Seconds later, Heather is wheeled into surgery, with Steve following right behind, down the hall to the operating room where both of their lives would be changed in many ways.
Steve says, “I feel better right now than I have felt since I was 16 years old.” As for Heather? “The amount of pain that I went through , just short term, is nothing compared to what I saw my husband go through during dialysis, and I wish I could grow another kidney and give it to a complete stranger.”
It only made sense to the Winfrees to continue to spread the word about organ donation.
“We decided, ” Heather says, “we’ll do this because it could help somebody else, not because of fame or whatever we wanted, we just wanted other people to know there’s hope.”
Steve agrees, “We’re being given a platform that most people don’t typically see. Let’s use it for good because for me, being a transplant recipient, I’m constantly asking myself, how can I show the most appreciation for this?”
The Winfrees are writing a book about their experiences and hoping to help change policy through the American Kidney Fund, in order to protect donors who need to take several weeks off of work for surgery and recovery.
The Winfrees say some donors have lost their jobs due to time off unrecognized in some states by the Family Medical Leave Act or short term disability.