Fairfield Twp. woman to receive kidney from Pittsburgh woman, $5,000 from Miami professor after year of searching

Keli Thorn is set to receive a kidney transplant on Feb. 2. Her husband, Aaron, has been her champion to help find a new kidney, including standing out at the corner of Bridgewater Falls with a red and white sandwich board asking people to donate a kidney for his wife. A woman from Pittsburgh, who saw the story, was inspired to donate to Keli Thorn. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Keli Thorn is set to receive a kidney transplant on Feb. 2. Her husband, Aaron, has been her champion to help find a new kidney, including standing out at the corner of Bridgewater Falls with a red and white sandwich board asking people to donate a kidney for his wife. A woman from Pittsburgh, who saw the story, was inspired to donate to Keli Thorn. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Cheyenne Frappier never planned to be a live organ donor.

But there was just something about seeing the story of Keli Thorn and her husband, Aaron, who regularly stood outside Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield Twp. with a red and white sandwich board asking people for a kidney for his wife.

“I feel like it was just meant to be,” said the 27-year-old Pittsburgh woman. “As soon as I had seen her story ... my heart was just pulling toward them.”

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The kidney donation is also a tribute to her parents. Her father, Michael Frappier, died when she was young of heart disease. Her mother, Debbie Waxler, died in 2018 from brain cancer.

“We didn’t know about my dad until it was too late, but if we could have gotten a new organ for them to make it, that would have meant everything to me,” she said. “Obviously if your family member can’t do that for you, you don’t have someone that matches in your family, wouldn’t you hope and pray that someone else would step up for it?”

The Thorns, of Fairfield Twp., have four children aged 12 to 22.

Aaron Thorn started standing outside the Fairfield Twp. mall wearing his sign praying someone will be willing to be tested to see if they were a match. One of the Pittsburgh television stations carried the news first covered by several media outlets in southwest Ohio, including the Journal-News.

Thousands of men, women and children are waiting for a gift that Frappier is giving Keli. There are more than 100,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant, and for anyone not on a transplant waiting list, these patients and their families are asked to do what the Thorns did and make a plea to the community.

There are more than 109,000 people in need of some type of organ transplant, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Kidney transplants are by far the most in-demand.

It took weeks of testing for Frappier to ensure she was a match, but it took months before Keli was ready for the transplant as health issues, such as a broken ankle, caused delays and processes to restart.

Barring any other setbacks, Keli will receive one of Frappier’s healthy kidneys.

“It’s been a long ride,” said Aaron, “a long ride.”

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Keli Thorn found out she has polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease, in 2009 when she was 32. In September 2019, she was told her disease reached Stage 4. Over the course of 2020, she received dialysis treatments three days a week.

Polycystic kidney disease affects not only the kidneys but other organs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Clusters of cysts form in the kidneys and interfere with the kidneys’ function, filtering waste from the blood. The cysts cause the kidneys to become enlarged and can lead to kidney failure.

Since the transplant date is now in 2021, the Thorns once again have to match their $5,000 insurance deductible, and Aaron said he hates asking for money. They are assisted with Help Hope Live, a nonprofit medical fundraising campaign for out-of-pocket medical costs during a medical emergency.

That’s where Pamela Chisum comes into this story. The visiting assistant professor at Miami University in Oxford saw last week’s local media coverage on the Thorns and decided to cover their deductible.

She did that, in part, “because 2020 was such a crappy year.” She also donated because “she felt move to do something” beyond her regular donations to environmental organizations.

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The decision to donate was difficult because she is on the last year of a five-year contract with Miami University, and will be back out on the job market at the end of this school year.

“I know who this is going to,” she said. “Will I need this $5,000 come the end of the year? I don’t know, but right now I have a paycheck and this is something I can do.”

Since the Thorns’ deductible for 2021 will be met, donations aren’t needed as much as prayers. Chisum’s donation, as well as donations from others, is humbling for the Thorns.

“It’s all about saying thank you,” Aaron said. “I don’t know what else to say.”

With the transplant set, and Keli being cleared for the surgery thus far, Aaron said they are “excited but tired.”

“Barring anything blowing up, everything’s locked in,” he said.

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