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Horses, Friendship And A Much Needed Kidney Donation

Updated: Nov 9, 2018

When we built our boarding facility many years ago I had no idea how much my life would change. I thought it was only about the horses in the beginning. I was so wrong and I am glad I was!  I never expected that one day I would share an entire week in a hospital with one of my boarders but it happened. I wanted to share this unexpected and beautiful story about horses, friendship and a much needed kidney donation.  ​

God works in amazing ways

For those of you who follow my blog, you have probably noticed that I haven't written anything in a very long time.  My life and my business changed greatly a few months ago and while I was in the middle of all of it, I didn't have any extra energy to write.  I was in survival mode with my business and mentally it had gotten the best of me for a short time. This is my story of how God works in amazing ways.

I am so honored to tell you that I had the privilege of being able to donate one of my kidneys to a dear friend who has also been a longtime boarder (even before we built our barn) and a wonderful horsewoman.  I now realize it is about so much more than the horses we take care of.  

This story started a long time ago for my friend Cheryl.  She had been waiting for a kidney for almost six years and time was running out. She is one of those people that light up a room when she walks in and you would never know that she had been sick for a very long time unless she told you. She never complained at all.  She has incredible humor and has stayed positive under such tough circumstances with her health. I had known she was sick for a very long time but it didn't hit me until this last year when Cheryl was not able to make it out to the barn.  It was all too much for her physically.  This last winter I started to think about kidney donation and I started to ask questions to find out more about it. I had talked to another friend of Cheryls that tried to donate but was not able to about the process.  After talking with my husband I decided to talk with Cheryl and ask her about it in much more detail.  She gave me some paperwork to read and then I could decide if I should pursue it. 

When things happen all at once

During the infancy stage of learning about kidney donation my barn and business was also going through some huge changes that I would realize later on was all part of God's plan for this surgery. After much prayer I decided to apply to be a kidney donor for Cheryl and I would go down to Froedtert Hospital for an all day evaluation. I would have to pass all the blood tests and every other test to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. I knew I could stop the process at any time but I thought I would go there and learn more about the surgery.  The first day was a twelve hour day with several other trips to Froedtert hospital over the next couple of weeks.   

While all this was going on I was also trying to run my barn and deal with the changes that were coming fast.  We had a trainer leave to start her own business and many people followed her along with all her training horses.  Overnight our barn became almost half empty and I started to panic about money and the loss of income.  Here I was in the middle of this kidney testing to see if I was a match and could donate and I was also dealing with the unknown for our boarding business.  I knew that if I was approved to be a kidney donor for Cheryl that I would be out of commission for many weeks and it would be too stressful trying to fill the stalls back up and rest my body at the same time. Everything hit me at once and it became overwhelming.  I finally had to stop and let go.  I gave it to the Lord. 

Things started to come together after that.  I was approved to be a kidney donor and I was a perfect match for Cheryl!!  David and I decided to leave the barn empty until the fall and go forward with the surgery. With that decision I finally had this wonderful peace that it would all work out. And it did. 

On Wednesday July 19th, 2017 Cheryl and I both had our surgeries at the same time.  They took out my left kidney and immediately put it into her body and it was done.  We both woke up many hours later - me in my room and Cheryl in her room with people who love us by our side. The surgery was a success and the next week would consist of sleeping, pain pills and trying not to laugh because it hurt so much.  I witnessed my dear friend starting to heal as the toxins were being taken out of her body and my kidney never skipped a beat. The kidney started working immediately and the color in Cheryl's face came back quickly. I saw life coming back to her and by the next day she could feel a huge difference.  When I think about it I still get teary eyed. 

Horses - the common thread in the beginning

We talked horses to all the attending nurses and doctors and when they would ask how we knew each other...horses were the common thread in the beginning and from there our friendship grew. It was so cool to see how many people love horses and love to talk about them.  Each day we both became stronger and we had many very short walks to each others rooms at all hours of the day and night.  I watched Cheryl eating foods that she had not been allowed to eat for the last six years and the joy on her face was incredible to see. We experienced every emotion possible over the week we were in the hospital and I wouldn't change a thing.  I know now this was all meant to be and I am the lucky one to be able to be part of it.  It is still surreal to me when I think about my kidney living and working in her body but what an incredible feeling.  

It has been over a week since the surgery and I am doing good.  I realize now that horses and our crazy love for them will open many doors that we are not expecting.  If we are ready to look beyond what is right in front of us, that is when get to experience so much more.  I know it will be a long while before Cheryl is riding but when she does, I am sure I will be crying all over again as I watch her doing what she loves to do.  This is the part of this business I love the most.  I still greatly enjoy the horses and being around them daily but I also love the people who board at my barn and have made our barn their barn home.

I want to also send out a huge thank you to all of our boarders and employees for taking care of the barn while I was gone at the hospital. They kept the barn running smoothly and what a fantastic team we have working here.  Life is so good. 

I know without a doubt that God had his hand in all of this.  A half empty barn, a kidney donation and much needed time to rest and heal.  It is all in His perfect timing and I am so blessed to be part of all of it.  Horses will bring us together but that is only the beginning. Get ready for the ride of your life. 

If you know someone that is in need of a kidney and you are possibly thinking about being a living donor, I would be happy to answer any questions you have about my experience.

Below are some pictures of Cheryl and me.  This was after the surgery and as you can see she looks amazing!  I look rough but it was all worth it.   The middle picture is us walking after the surgery at 3am!

Wishing you many blessings in your horse business, Sheri Grunska 

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