A surprise ending: Daughter-in-law a match for transplant

Jean Feils, of Plainview, recieved a kidney transplant from daughter-in-law Kimberly Feils one year ago.

Ever heard a horror story about someone's sharp-tongued mother-in-law?

Such antagonism is absent with at least one local family.

Kim Feils gave a gift to her mother-in-law that demonstrates a different emotion.

Her mother-in-law, Jean Feils, of Plainview, who is retired from her job as secretary/receptionist for Feils Oil Co., went on dialysis after her kidneys were damaged by a high blood pressure event.

All four of Jean's surviving children got tested to see if they could be a match to donate a kidney to her. Several others got tested as well, including grandchildren, a classmate and daughters-in-law. Kim went along and got tested with her husband, Tom.


"I had no idea that she would be a match, and that I wouldn't," Tom Feils said. "I was totally shocked."

Jean received the living-donor transplant on Jan. 27, 2011.

"I came through it really well. They were even kind of surprised that I felt so good afterward," she said. 

Jean said she didn't think she'd be a candidate for transplant, but she was. When doctors told her, it brought a flood of emotions.

"In 1986, our 19-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver," Jean said. "And she was a donor. So her heart was transplanted into a professor at the University of California and her kidneys and other organs were donated."

Difficult decisions

Tom and Kim found out about the match before Jean, and had to do some soul searching before telling her. They talked about it with each other, then with their pastor.

A serious surgery carries risk, and living donors must recognize there's a possibility the donor will die from a complication, or the recipient might not survive.


"Kim and I together had to sit down with the kids and tell them about the decision she had made," Tom said. "We really had to tell them the worst-case scenario could be something happens to their mother and their grandmother. We didn't want to sugar-coat it." 

At the time, they had a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, who both took the discussion very seriously. Kim didn't want to leave her kids without a mother, and her husband alone to raise them. But, she said, "I prayed to the Lord, and it was the right thing to do."

Surprising, wonderful

Jean wondered which of her kids would match. "I thought about what the blood types were and I kind of decided who I thought it might be, and it was just surprising — and wonderful — to find out that it was Kim, that she was a match. I still can't believe it. I think it's a miracle."

The whole family is thankful for the Mayo Clinic transplant program, the doctors, the nurses and the staff.

"They're just so wonderful," Jean said. "I just think it's important for people to know how important it is to be organ donors."

Since the surgery, Jean has resumed what she did before she got sick in 2009. She plays piano and loves watching her grandkids' music concerts and sporting events.

Today, Jean and Kim still marvel at the turn of events.


"I was totally surprised," Kim said. "I never in a million years thought that I would be a better match than my husband."


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