September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

The ultimate giving of himself

Courtney donates kidney to a stranger, helps cousin
Anna Post (11) from Alabama received a kidney from Courtney Shelby of Ridgeway, Iowa. The two were paired through the kidney donation program through Mayo Clinic. Shelby works on his family’s 77-cow dairy, Courtlane Holsteins. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO PROVIDED
Anna Post (11) from Alabama received a kidney from Courtney Shelby of Ridgeway, Iowa. The two were paired through the kidney donation program through Mayo Clinic. Shelby works on his family’s 77-cow dairy, Courtlane Holsteins. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO PROVIDED

By by Kelli Boylen- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

RIDGEWAY, Iowa - Shelby Courtney was willing to give his cousin the amazing gift of one of his kidneys, but through some twists and turns within the story made a happy ending for two families.
Courtney said he has always been close to his cousin, Judy Thorson. After her dad died in a car accident when she was 4 years old, Judy and her brothers lived close to the Courtney family dairy farm near Ridgeway, growing up together.
Thorson, who now lives in Waterloo, had a kidney transplant in 1982, which her body rejected after two years. A second kidney transplant worked well for her for almost 30 years, but cancer treatment caused the organ to fail. Courtney said that last summer his cousin started to ask family members if they would consider donating a kidney. He didn't have any hesitation.
After three blood tests last August, Courtney said he didn't think he was going to be a good match. Once he found out it was a possibility, he was nervous and occasionally worried, but he said he has never reconsidered his decision.
He underwent three solid days of medical tests in October to be sure he was a good donor candidate and his body would be able to work live well for the rest of his life with one kidney. Although he was in good overall shape, doctors advised him that his body mass index was too high. He was able to lose 24 pounds in about two months, which meant he was physically ready to donate his kidney.
Although he may have been able to donate his kidney to his cousin, the doctors found a better match for someone else. An 11-year-old girl from Alabama named Anna Post needed a kidney. Her father, Jeff Post, was willing to donate a kidney, but he was not a good match for his daughter.
The paired kidney donation program through Mayo Clinic was able to create a win-win situation. The program creates a chain that provides healthy organs to two people with failing kidneys. Courtney's kidney would go to the little girl, and her father's kidney would go to Courtney's cousin, Judy.
With a family, a full-time job and working on his family's farm every day it would be easy to think Courtney would be too busy to take off from his job as a machinist for six weeks, or to not help on his family's farm for that long. His employer was able to give him the time off and his brothers had no problem stepping up to cover the chores Shelby usually does on their parents' farm.
"I live just a mile down the road from the farm," Courtney said. "I'm there pretty much every day."
His parents, Louis and Pat Courtney, operate their farm with the assistance of Shelby, along with his brothers, Scott, Shane and Sam, who all also work off farm.
They milk 77 cows at Courtlane Holsteins, growing corn, hay and soybeans. Shelby said he often helps with caring for the calves in the wintertime, field work in the summer and whatever else needs to be done. He gets off from his fulltime job at 3 p.m., and then he heads over to the farm.
On Dec. 23, just two days before Christmas, the surgeries took place. Courtney and Jeff had their kidneys removed in surgeries that took about two hours each at Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minn. Courtney's kidney was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester for Anna's surgery. St. Mary's specialized in medical care for children.
The surgery to have the kidneys transplanted took about four hours. Typically, the recipient's organs remain in place, and the new kidney is placed near the bladder. Since they do not actually remove any organs, it often takes the recipient less time to recover than the donor.
The night of the surgery the doctors had Courtney up and walking. He was able to surprise his cousin by stopping by her room to see how she was doing. The doctors could already tell his kidney was doing well in Anna.
Courtney came home from the hospital on Christmas afternoon, but it will take him six weeks to be fully recovered. For now he can not lift anything over 10 pounds, and he is not allowed to do any moving in a pulling motion as a hernia near the incision could take place.
"I feel really good," he said. "I just need to watch what I am doing."
The first week he was really sore, and he still needs to be careful with movements such as getting out of bed or out of a chair. Courtney is normally a pretty active guy, so sitting around in the house is certainly something different for him; however, he knows things on the farm are being taken care of.
"The whole family has been really supportive," he said.
The surgeries took place just shy of the first wedding anniversary of Shelby and his wife, Tara. They were married Dec. 28, 2012.
Just days before the surgery she wrote, "We have a Christmas miracle happening this year and I couldn't be more proud of my husband ... The emotions that are running through us are unreal and I couldn't ask for a better partner in life that he can give a gift like this."
Before leaving Rochester, Shelby, Tara and Thorson's mom (Shelby's aunt) were able to go to St. Mary's to meet Anna. Courtney said that upon meeting Anna he cried.
"It was all very emotional. We talk or email Anna's family regularly. I'm pretty sure we will stay in touch," he said.
Anna and Thorson were discharged from the hospital the Saturday after surgery, but they need to stay in Rochester for a full month after surgery to have daily checks to make sure their bodies' are not rejecting the kidneys.
Courtney said he did not reconsider donating his kidney when they told him that it would not be going to his cousin.
"As long as I was still helping her I didn't think twice about it," he said.
He encourages anyone who is ever asked to consider being a kidney donor not to be scared.
"It was an awesome Christmas gift. There could have been no better present for my cousin or that little girl. I'd say to anyone to do it. You learn a lot about yourself too," he said.
Judy Thorson and Anna Post are both doing well. Anna has nicknamed her new kidney Skeeter.
Doctors are very hopeful Anna's new kidney will last her 30 years or more to give her a good life.[[In-content Ad]]


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