“You could be someone else’s answered prayer.”

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A chance "how are you holding up?" between two longtime coworkers in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's IT department ended up saving the lives of their husbands.

In fall of 2019, Susan Ellis and Tia Wimbush discovered that both of their husbands went into renal failure within days of each other. Both men were in desperate need of kidney transplants.

Tia and Rodney Wimbush and Susan and Lance Ellis
Credit: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Months after first bonding over the similarities in their experience, Tia and Susan ran into each other in the bathroom, where they started chatting about the donor evaluation process.

"We were washing our hands and catching up," Tia recalled. "I knew Susan was finishing up the donor process, so I asked how it was going."

That was when they learned they learned Tia's blood type was a near perfect match for Susan's husband Lance, and that Susan and Tia's husband Rodney had compatible blood types.

It was a lightbulb moment for the wives.

Tia went back to her desk and immediately got the ball rolling on a paired kidney exchange.

Four weeks later, Tia and Susan were confirmed to donate a kidney to each other's husbands, and on March 19, 2021, Tia donated her kidney to Lance and Susan donated her kidney to Rodney.

The transplants were successful, and both men are doing well.

"It's a story of kindness," Susan said. "Had Tia not had that basic conversation in the restroom while we were washing our hands, just checking in with each other, perhaps this would not have evolved into the magnitude that it has."

Susan Ellis and Tia Wimbush Transplant Reunion
Credit: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

For Tia, it's a story of hope.

"What I hope people take away is that they could be someone else's answered prayer. You could be someone else's hope," she said. "All it takes is a conversation, a kind word, checking in on someone to see how they are doing. You don't know how far that can go for one person."