Snap decision by kidney patient helped him avoid blizzard, receive life-saving transplant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Severe weather events, such as this weekend's blizzard, can force people into quick decisions.

That's what happened to one metro couple on Saturday, who, as inclement weather warnings grow more serious, made a spur-of-the-moment decision that saved a life.

The timing could only have been heaven sent. That's how Bill Casselman, 58, described his weekend. The retired railroad worker had waited for a donor kidney to arrive for nearly four years.

He and his wife Angela visited family in Wichita on Thanksgiving Thursday morning and stayed there until Saturday, when meteorologists warned people about the oncoming onslaught of snowy weather. The Casselmans said they heeded the warning, heading back to Kansas City ahead of schedule.

As they arrived at their home in the Northland, that long awaited phone call came: a donor kidney was ready to go.

Bill Casselman

"I kept looking at (Angela) as we were waiting to go down. I can't believe this is happening," Bill Casselman said Tuesday.

The Casselmans said over four years of waiting, they'd seen false hopes arise. This transplant didn't seem meant to be until Sunday morning when surgeons went to work.

If they hadn't made the snap decision to return, they'd have possibly been trapped in Wichita by the severe weather, and the donated kidney would have gone to another recipient.

"You're on the list finally, and then, two years into that, you're like, 'I'm never going to get a call.' After three years, I was sure I was never going to get a call," Bill Casselman said.

"I think it's just now, today, hitting me," Angela Casselman said, while fighting back her tears. "When we got to the hospital and Dr. Ireland came in to see him, I told him, 'It's not tentative anymore? Are we staying?' He said, 'Yeah.'"

Bill Casselman said chronic kidney disease had ruined his health. Over a four-year stretch, he spent eight hours per day receiving dialysis, knowing he'd never get better.

On Tuesday, in his room at St. Luke's Hospital near the Country Club Plaza, Casselman said the last four years of his life were taken over by dialysis appointments, a task he won't need anymore.

"All this is was God. One hundred percent," Casselman said. "Too many things fell into place all at once for this to be anything other than a miracle."

"I kind of said to somebody, my husband got a kidney this weekend, and it just kind of hit that, wow, he's got a kidney now!" Angela Casselman rejoiced.

The Casselmans said they expect to be discharged from Saint Luke's later this week. They said they're unsure of their plans for the Christmas season, but the best present they could ask for has already been unwrapped. Bill Casselman said this procedure saved his life.

"You talk about Thanksgiving? This is Thanksgiving, and plenty to give thanks for," Bill Casselman said.

Casselman is the 98th kidney transplant recipient at St. Luke's Hospital this year. The donor who gave both kidneys signed the back of his driver's license, and his organs were given to two thankful patients this weekend.

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