Medical science can solve all sorts of problems. It has eradicated numerous communicable diseases and managed many chronic ones, restored the limbs and faces of the terribly maimed and often even beaten cancer.
Yet medicine really struggles when it comes to one area: organ transplant. It’s not that doctors have a hard time shunting a liver or a heart from one person to another.
Rather, it’s that the supply of available organs is so limited. One retired police officer decided to increase that supply by one when her former partner found himself in need.
41-year-old Stanley Barsch from Middletown, Maryland first discovered he had polycystic kidney disease in 2002. His mother, who also suffers from the disease, was in need of a donor.
“I went through all the testing, and in the final phase I found out I too had the same disease,” Barsch told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.
This genetic disorder wreaks havoc on the organs that filter your blood. Cysts form and fill with fluid, which causes the kidneys to swell in size until they stop working.
“It was devastating, but from the aspect that I was trying to save my mother’s life and wasn’t able to provide her the gift of life that I desperately wanted,” he told Liftable. “She ended up on dialysis until 2005 until she got a cadaver kidney, and she passed away in 2017 with a weak heart and sepsis.”
According to Barsch, his kidneys over the years ballooned to approximately 15-20 pounds each. “The average kidney weighs .25 LBS,” he said.
“The massive cysts caused my function to drop steadily over the past couple years. I started losing a lot of my energy noticeably in the past few years,” he said. “This past December I entered stage 5 kidney failure, and with 17% function and dropping I desperately needed a kidney.”
So he put out a call on social media, letting friends, family and colleagues know he needed a new organ.
Of the 31 responses he received, 36-year-old Megan Ambrose was the first one to respond, the first one to set up the appointment and the first one to go for testing. Ambrose was Barsch’s former partner while he was a police officer.
When the results came back, she learned that she was a perfect match, so she planned an equally perfect surprise for Barsch.
“There are no words that do our partnership justice,” Ambrose told PEOPLE. “You experience things with your partner that you can’t really explain. … He’s my ride or die.”
“I knew that Megan was going in for testing, and MedStar Georgetown put the other applications on hold but wouldn’t tell me why,” Barsch told Liftable. “Turns out later Megan matched 100%, but no one told me.”
Ambrose actually learned about this in the middle of January but wanted to first talk it over with her husband and family. “Later [in] January she asked if me and my wife Jessica would meet with her and her husband Chris,” he said. “We didn’t know if she wasn’t going to be able to do it, wasn’t a great match, was scared to do it or what. We didn’t know what to expect.”
The two couples were finally able to meet on February 14, which is both Valentine’s Day and National Donor Day, she invited her former partner and his wife over to her home.
While they were there, she handed them a card.
Barsch posted photos of the card on Facebook. The front of the card read, “So I heard urine need of a kidney …” When Barsch flipped it open, he read, “Want mine?”
“Turns out that we are a perfect match, not only on the job but in blood and organs, too. You always had my back on the road and off. Now you can have my kidney.”
Then he promptly burst into tears. After his wife hugged the soon-to-be-donor, he engulfed her in a hug as well.
Afterward, he posted, “Two nights ago, my late Sergeant … visited me in my dreams, he had some jokes for me. This should have been a sign.”
The surgery occurred on May 14. Not only was it a success, Barsch said on Facebook that the surgeon declared that Ambrose’s kidney was “beautiful.”
“Megan was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon,” Barsch told Liftable. “She is on Tylenol and heating pad, her pain will slowly fade in the next few days. Her recovery time is 4-6 weeks. I’m leaving the hospital this afternoon (Friday) and my recovery time is 1 month.”
“We were always close, now we are one. We are bonded for life, she is more than a sister that I never wanted.”
What Barsch really hopes people will learn from their story is the importance of living donors. “Share your spare, it is the most amazing and rewarding gift you can ever give. The pain is short lived, for a life given forever. You don’t have to be an exact match, you can do a paired exchange, there are so many ways to donate. The gift of life is amazing!”
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