Retired North Miami Beach Senior High teacher Ellen Sherman, 71, received a life-saving transplant surgery after reaching out to former student and best-selling author Brad Meltzer. Sherman, seeking to spread the word that she needed a kidney, contacted Meltzer, political-thriller novelist, comic book author and children’s book writer, for help. Because of Meltzer’s assistance, on August 26, UHealth – University of Miami Health System transplant surgeons, nurses and other medical staff performed the life-saving surgery for Sherman and her donor at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Sherman was diagnosed 13 years ago with nephrosclerosis – a progressive disease of the kidneys in which there is hardening of the small blood vessels, leading to kidney failure. In 2013, UHealth doctors at the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) at Jackson Memorial Medical Center placed her on the national donor waiting list.
“I was dismayed that this moment had come, even though I was not surprised,” said Sherman. “I felt like there was a fog in my head.”
When Sherman learned she needed the transplant, she reached out to Meltzer who nearly 30 years ago sat in Sherman’s American history class. Meltzer never forgot Sherman, and when he heard from Sherman, he jumped at the opportunity to help his former teacher. He wrote a Facebook post about her and received an overwhelming response from hundreds of followers, mostly strangers willing to donate a kidney.
One of his followers, Amy Waggoner, 36, from Virginia, was a perfect match.
"I thought my thank you would be a book dedication inside ‘History Decoded’ (2013),” says Meltzer. “I never thought I would be returning my gratitude by reaching out to my followers on Facebook.”
“When I saw the post, I thought to myself, ‘Brad is asking for help. Ok, I'll help.’ That's just what friends do,’" said Waggoner. “Something beyond myself compelled me to follow through with it and get tested. I call it divine intervention, because I do not willingly go to get my blood drawn or poked with a needle if I can avoid it!”
Waggoner was saving the life of a woman she had never met. Although afraid, Waggoner felt comfortable with the medical team from MTI, where she was told the procedure was safe and the recovery time was short. She realize that the lifelong gratification of being able to save someone’s life would be worth her fear.
“We were relieved when we found out that Amy was compatible,” said Ellen’s husband, Craig Sherman. “We were very grateful; Amy is now a new member of our family.”
The surgery was performed on August 26. It was a success and both patients – donor and recipient – are recovering well.
“I couldn't wait to wake up and see Ellen's face and find out if she was feeling better than she did that morning, said Amy. “Helping her feel better and live a normal life was my ultimate concern.”
On the day of the operation, Meltzer paid a surprise visit to both patients and their families in their recovery rooms.
Both patients will share their story during a news conference on Thursday, September 10.