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Hilliard business owner donates kidney to Iowa woman who had 20 percent chance to find donor

HILLIARD, OH (WCMH) -- Morgan Ebel had a slim chance of finding a donor for her failing kidney before Bear Jacobsen got his blood tested. 

She lives in Iowa City. He's the owner of Renovo Fitness in Hilliard.

Doctors gave her a 20 percent chance of finding a match or an estimated wait of more than seven years to find a donor on the registry.

"My body had built up such an immunity against my first one, that they just didn’t give me very high odds of finding this next one," said Morgan. 

When she was 7 years old, Morgan was in complete renal failure. Doctors diagnosed her with crescentic glomerulonephritis, potentially caused by strep throat.

After going through dialysis for about five years, her father was able to give her his kidney when was she was 11 years old.

Fast forward to October 2016, doctors tell Morgan due to normal wear and tear, her kidney was starting to fail and she needed to find another one for the second time. 

“Finding out that I was going to need a new kidney was probably the most gut-wrenching experience of my life," she said. 

Morgan and her family spent over a year searching for her next donor.

“My mom had a bright red bumper sticker on the back of her car, driving around for a year," she said. 

In October 2017, Bear happened to be in Iowa for a wedding. He saw a post Morgan's mother made on Facebook, asking for help.

“It was a ‘why not,'" he said. "By no means did I see that post and say, ‘I’m giving my kidney away,’ but I saw it and I said, ‘I might as well see.’”

He decided to get his blood tested and two weeks later he found out he was a match. 

Even more amazing, these now lifelong friends weren't complete strangers. They knew each other from working at the same credit union in Iowa City.

“The odds are really low that anything bad’s going to happen," said Bear. "The odds are really, really good that Morgan is going to come out the other side feeling 600% better and gets to live her life.”

Bear's donation came right when Morgan needed it most. She was extremely sick from being on dialysis. She lost over 30 pounds and her hemoglobin levels dropped.

“I honestly don’t know what would have happened if we wouldn't have found Bear when we did," she said. "He saved my life."

The transplant surgery successfully took place in March 2018. Both Morgan and Bear are healthy.

“I didn’t sacrifice my life to save hers. I just gave something that I had that she needed," said Bear. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, especially looking at Morgan and the way she’s doing.”

Morgan said she's now living an active life, traveling and playing with her dog.

“I am living every day to its fullest," she said. 

She encourages anyone who's willing to get tested to be a living donor, to go to your local hospital and ask for information. You can also become an organ donor on the Ohio BMV website: Click here. 

“My biggest thing is share your spare," said Morgan. “If you’re willing to so much as look into it, do it because you could change the life of somebody.”


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