Son-in-law gives ultimate gift with organ donation


Grant, Neb., resident Wiley Sowle and his mother-in-law Carol Friesen, from Wallace, Neb., both have Type O blood. A trivial fact that Wiley learned from a conversation a while ago when he first started dating Carol’s daughter Katie, but one that, unbeknownst to them, would prove to be of value. 

Although 61-year-old Carol doesn’t remember the conversation with Wiley about their similar blood types, she would be most thankful years later that she and the 28-year-old, who went on to marry her daughter, share this common feature. 

You see, when someone needs an organ transplant, as Carol did in 2015, having the same blood type is important.

Carol has a disorder of her kidneys called Thin Basement Membrane Disease (TBMD) that, according to the website, affects the tiny tufts of capillaries (small blood vessels) in the kidneys that filter wastes from the blood. It is a rare disorder that has been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of the population and can lead to kidney failure, as it did for Carol in late 2015.

In early 2016, Carol, her husband Vern and their family, began the process of getting Carol in line for a kidney transplant. 

When Wiley heard of the need his mother-in-law had, he remembered their shared blood type and he knew what he had to do.

“I had complete peace with the decision from the beginning,” Sowle said. This peace, however, was not as easily shared by Carol. 

“I had a hesitancy in accepting his kidney,” Carol said, saying Wiley is like one of her own children, and taking a vital body organ from a healthy 28-year-old is a huge decision. But because of Wiley’s instance, and a peace she also felt from God, she accepted. 

So the two proceeded through the long process at the Univeristy of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha to be a donor and a recipient. The process was especially long for Wiley. 

Several tests  had to be completed to make sure Wiley was healthy for the operation and also a good match for Carol. He passed each test with flying colors. 

The process was also long because UNMC wanted to give Wiley time to really think about his decision and time to weigh the pros and cons.

“Every step of the way they make it clear to you that you always have a way out, that you are not being coerced or pressured in any way to donate,” Wiley said. 

Wiley never had second thoughts, though, and the date of the transplant was set for July 25, 2016. 

But then Wiley got a phone call. It was UNMC and they had a proposal.

“They were interested in me taking part in a paired kidney exchange,” he said.

A paired kidney exchange, also known as a “kidney swap”, occurs when there are more than one donor/recipient pairs at a specific facility where one donor is more compatible with one of the other recipients and vice versa. This is what UNMC had, and, as it turned out, Wiley was a better match for a different recipient and Carol was a better match with a different donor. 

After much prayer and thought, Wiley, Carol and family decided to proceed with the swap, which turned out to be a three-pair swap, a first for UNMC, Carol said. 

The day of the surgery came, and both Wiley and Carol said they had nothing but peace as they entered the process, which was a success. 

Wiley now has only one kidney, which is suitable for a healthy adult, while Carol now has three kidneys. 

“They do not take out your non-functional kidneys,” she said, saying that the healthy kidney is placed in the recipient’s right, lower abdomen and connected to their bladder. 

“The diseased kidneys will eventually shrink and mostly disappear as the new kidney takes over,”she said. 

Both Carol and Wiley would like to meet the people they are now connected to through donation. 

“We are curious,” Wiley said. They have put in a request to meet the two, but have not heard anything back yet. 

Both Carol and Wiley urge others to consider live organ donation, saying that a decision by one person could set off a chain reaction where an exchange would become possible and many people could benefit. They also recommend signing up to become an organ donor once you have passed away. 

For more information on organ donation, logon to

Nebraska Living Times

P.O. Box 751
Grant, NE 69140