Gisel and Sally’s Story

During the 2011 Christmas holiday season, Sally Grandgenett, gave her best friend, Gisel Theis, a present that couldn’t be purchased on a store shelf or shipped overnight. Their friendship, Sally, 52, and Gisel, 51, is rooted in a bond among their parents, who spent a lot of time together while the women were growing up as little girls in Pleasanton, Neb. Since then, the two have embarked on numerous adventures across the world; rode motorcycles and horses together; chased boys; went to Husker football games; traveled to Europe; and played softball, volleyball and basketball on the same teams for many years.

In 2001, Gisel was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in your kidneys. At the time, family members were tested to see if they qualified as donors, and Sally asked to be included in the testing. “Gisel’s son was 2 years old at that time, and the thought of her having to be on dialysis with a young child was enough reason for me to want to be part of the testing.”

“It feels like the right thing to do. I am fortunate to be healthy, and I know that I will lead a normal life with one kidney,” Sally said. Doctors wanted to postpone the transplant until Gisel needed to start dialysis, mainly because of her young age and the possibility of her requiring more than one transplant for a normal life expectancy.

Gisel took care of herself by following a low-protein, low-sodium diet, had regular iron injections, got testing and did everything the doctors asked of her. She was able to maintain for 10 years without needing the transplant or dialysis. It was in the early months of 2011 that Gisel began to experience deterioration, and doctors reevaluated her need for a transplant. She felt fortunate to have avoided dialysis, unlike so many other kidney-diseased patients.

Sally said: “I needed to know that she feels better, and this will have all been worthwhile. Taking just three weeks out of my life to help transform someone else’s made the decision to donate an easy one.” A mother of two, Sally sat down with her children to tell them about her choice to donate. “Neither one of them tried to talk me out of it, and they were there for me emotionally through it all.” Sally’s husband, siblings and coworkers were just as encouraging.


Gisel said: “We have been friends since time began, and it’s unbelievable that we are a match. I’ve always felt fortunate to have her in my life and never would have thought our friendship would go to this extent. As odd as it may sound, it feels very natural because she has always seemed more like family than not.” Sally said she’s blessed to forge an even deeper connection with her longtime friend; she’s getting just as much out of this as her friend.