This Thanksgiving will be one to remember for Shannon Grieshop and her family.
The Hilltop Elementary School teacher is feeling like a new woman these days thanks to the sacrifice of a co-worker, paraprofessional Wendy Wood. On Oct. 6, Grieshop received a new kidney from Wood, even though Wood barely knew Grieshop when she agreed to the surgery.
Seven weeks after the surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta both women are doing well. Wood returned to work last week, and Grieshop, whose recovery was expected to take longer, is scheduled to be back on the job in January.
Grieshop said her new kidney has worked out better than she ever expected.
“It is just miraculous the way I feel so much better,” she said. “My color is better. It is just a complete one-eighty.”
Before the surgery, she was having fatigue and leg cramps. That has all gone away. Grieshop said she only now realizes how bad off she was. She had become so used to her discomforts that it seemed normal.
Her response came quickly when asked what she is thankful for this year.
“First and foremost, God and my family and Wendy,” Grieshop said. “I am thankful for a new opportunity and a new lease on life.”
Wood said she has a lot of be thankful for too, starting with the fact that the kidney is working for Grieshop.
“That’s your biggest fear is that you go through all this and it doesn’t take,” she said. “I’m just so thankful and so blessed it has worked.”
She is also thankful for her students and co-workers who enthusiastically welcomed her back to work Nov. 14 and for all the people who brought food to her house after she came home from the hospital. Her husband doesn’t cook, she said, so that was especially helpful.
“I didn’t have to cook at all for two or three weeks,” she said. “We just appreciate all our family, friends and co-workers. They have all been so wonderful.”
Grieshop had polycystic kidney disease. She had already lost one kidney and was on dialysis before the operation. A wife and mother of five, her life span was expected to be severely shortened, and she was too far down on the transplant list to expect a kidney any time soon.
Wood said she felt called by God to help Grieshop.
There was a complication during the surgery in that the kidney didn’t immediately take to Grieshop’s body, but the surgeons were able to work it out.
The biggest news came 12 hours after the surgery, when Grieshop had her first blood test. The test measures the creatinine level, which tells how well the kidney is flushing toxins from the body. A normal level is around 1, but before the surgery Grieshop’s level was 5.8.
She and her family were on edge as they waited for the first test results to come back. It showed Grieshop’s level at 2.3.
“We were shouting praises,” she said.
She has had regular tests since then and the results have only gone down. It is now at 1.14 and the prognosis looks good.
Although Grieshop and Wood knew each other only in passing before Wood agreed to donate her kidney, they have since become close and talk at least once a week now.
“She has just been an absolute blessing,” Grieshop said. “She has touched my life in a way that nobody else could have.”