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Transplant families celebrating ‘perfect’ match

Suzi McKee • Feb 10, 2020 at 4:30 PM

On Dec. 17, 2019, when Cheyenne Houser opened her eyes, she immediately thought about the surgery she would be undergoing that day. “I thought I’d be very nervous,” Cheyenne began, “but with every surgery I’ve had, my dad would always be there saying ‘it’s okay; just pray’ and I truly felt the prayers that were being lifted up on my behalf.”

Cheyenne and her childhood acquaintance, Sierra Warfe, were at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for the long-awaited kidney transplant that would change both of their lives. Each young lady had her own surgical team and recovery team prepared to make the life-altering transplant that Cheyenne so desperately needed.

After sporting T-shirts that said, “I recycle” and “Contains recycled parts” around the hospital, the girls had become favorites of the staff. Sierra had made the shirts for them to wear to celebrate their reconnected friendship and their new bond.

“The doctor came out after the surgery was over and told us that it was a ‘textbook’ surgery,” Cheyenne’s mother, Sheila Houser, explained. “The surgery itself took less time than they anticipated, the kidney that Sierra gave to Cheyenne was perfect, and it began working immediately.” The doctor told the Housers the kidney was not only a match but a “perfect” match, which is highly unusual. The size of the kidney, the look of it, and the makeup of blood and cells was exactly what Cheyenne needed.

The recovery team was amazed that when each girl woke up from anesthesia, they asked how the other was doing. “Sierra asked about Cheyenne, and Cheyenne asked about Sierra,” Sheila said with a smile. “That just touched all of our hearts.”

“My nurse practitioner told us that I was the only patient that she had ever had who had no complications after a transplant surgery,” Cheyenne shared. “She had no tremors and no swelling which is just unheard of,” Sheila continued, “and that’s just God’s hand at work in this.”

Both girls did so well that Sierra was released a week earlier than expected. She was back in Oklahoma for Christmas. She has since returned to work as a phlebotomist. Cheyenne, who was expected to remain in Chapel Hill for five weeks, returned to her Blountville home two weeks early.

For the first five days, Cheyenne had to sleep in a recliner in her home because she was too sore to lie on her side or her back. “I was in a lot of pain,” she shared. “It was more intense than anything I had ever experienced.”

She had missed her puppy and her horse, Bindi, so one of the first things she did when she was able was go to the barn to get a much-needed hug from her four-legged buddy.

Cheyenne, a fierce barrel riding champion, can’t ride her horse until three months after the transplant surgery, and she can’t compete for a six-month period. With a big competition looming ahead of her in June in Lexington, Virginia, Cheyenne has a goal of exercising and getting back in shape before that deadline.

Cheyenne will have to continue monthly checkups and weekly blood labs to monitor her progress. She will eventually stretch these visits to yearly checkups and monthly blood labs as her body continues to heal.

Cheyenne’s life has changed since her transplant. “We redid my room,” she said with a grin. “I don’t have to store dialysis materials now, and I’ve got a ton of room to use.”

Other changes in her lifestyle include being able to now enjoy her favorite drinks, Coke and Dr Pepper. She can never eat at a buffet again nor can she have grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Right now, she also can’t eat salads or uncooked foods in restaurants like fruits and vegetables.

So, what does the future hold for Cheyenne? She’s currently enrolled in two online classes at Northeast State and will resume full-time status in the fall.

But in the meantime in March, her Mamaw Kate is taking Cheyenne to Hawaii to celebrate her new lease on life. “I’m just so excited,” Cheyenne said. “I can’t wait for March to get here.”

She’s also very excited to take a bubble bath and to “swim, swim, swim.” She hasn’t been able to enjoy either of these luxuries for a very long time.

Cheyenne and her family pray their story touches the lives of everyone who hears about it. “I just didn’t know much about living donors,” Cheyenne explained, “but with prayer, lots of faith, and a living donor, your life can completely change.”

Overwhelmed with love, packages, cards and gifts from their family, friends and church family, the Housers are grateful for everyone who made the journey with them. “It’s a testimony to God’s work,” said Sheila, “and we want to give Him the honor and glory.”

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