Kidney donor helping friend search for her life-saving gift

BAY COUNTY (WJRT) - (01/11/19) - Six years ago today a Bay County man donated his kidney to a 10-year-old girl he'd only recently met.

Fast-forward to today and you'll see they're trying to help someone else receive a life-saving gift.

We first met Jessica Schwerin in late 2012 as her mother publicly searched for a kidney donor.

Brian Martindale, who would end up donating one of his two kidneys, remembers hearing about Jessica's story. "Was willing to put her pride aside and stand out there on ther corner where Walmart here is in Bay City, hold that sign up and get people to stop," Martindale recounts.

Martindale, a painter and owner of Karma Inc. Apparel, called Jessica's mother to ask about her blood type, which was a match.

He then went on to get tested.

"A few pokes, a few prods," he said. Martindale said it also involved a physical.

They would later learn he was a perfect match for the little girl who was struggling.

"I was really tired lots of the time, it was hard to get through school. I couldn't sleep well," Schwerin said.

She remembers missing fourth grade because of her medical issues, and said she often had leg cramps and couldn't eat.

As a 10-year-old she was afraid of ending up on dialysis.

Thankfully she didn't have to find out what being hooked to a machine for dialysis was like.

Martindale donated his kidney to Schwerin on Jan. 11, 2013.

She has lived a perfectly normal, healthy life since then.

"I get to hang out with my friends. I do a lot of school events that I enjoy, like band," Schwerin said.

Martindale joked he can't believe she can now drive.

She does take daily medication, but she said it's not something she gives much thought to.

Martindale, after a few issues immediately following his surgery, has also lived a healthy life. "I work 40, sometimes 80 hours a week with guys half my age. I blow'em out of the water," he said.

Martindale, who is a mentor at the University of Michigan Health System where the transplant was done, said right now there are roughly 98,000 people who are dreaming their story has a similar ending.

One of them is Jamie Nichols, Martindale's friend.

"Hoping that a kidney donor will put me back to, saving my life, and back to a normal life," Nichols said.

She's known about her Polycystic Kidney Disease for 28 years.

Then last summer she was put on the list for a transplant when her kidney function dropped to five percent.

She also started dialysis. "So it's Monday, Wednesday, Friday and those are my days that you don't feel well," Nichols.

Dialysis is not a long-term fix, it's only meant to get her by while she waits for a donor.

Twice she's had possible donors only to learn it wouldn't work out. "And then when you get the news that the second one also was not a match, and it's like, 'where am I turning now," Nichols said.

Martindale hopes to help Nichols find a match. He's starting with this story to spread awareness.

All three hope someone will see Nichols' story and be inspired to get tested.

"That can change a whole life. Make them have more opportunities, make them happier. It's just, it changes their whole life," Schwerin said.

To learn more about getting tested click on the 'Related Link' with this story. Nichols' medical team is at Henry Ford Transplant Institute.

Nichols has to have a type O donor.

Anyone wishing to find out if they're a match for Nichols will need her name and date of birth, which is Dec. 12, 1963. There's a direct link to learn more about that process in the 'Related Links' as well. You can also call 1-855-974-4136.

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