Kidney donor saves life of co-worker he had never met

After Jimmie Deibert donated his kidney to co-worker Jeanine Ramirez, they shared a smile days after their surgeries.  Courtesy of Kyra Ramirez

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

After Jimmie Deibert donated his kidney to co-worker Jeanine Ramirez, they shared a smile days after their surgeries. Courtesy of Kyra Ramirez

Jeanine Ramirez was making plans for the end of her life when a call from Bixby, Oklahoma, changed everything.

“Jeanine, I’m a match,” said Jimmie Deibert as soon as Ramirez answered.

“For what?” asked Ramirez.

“I’m giving you my kidney,” said Deibert.

Ramirez, of Milton, was shocked to learn she was in kidney failure during her annual physical in 2018. She was asymptomatic, but the combination of migraine medication Topamax and pain reliever ibuprofen caused her creatinine levels to skyrocket. She did her best to slow the progression, but in June 2021 her kidney function dropped to just 9%.

“My arms and legs started to hurt, I had shooting pains that made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, I had no energy or appetite. My body was incredibly itchy because my phosphorus was so high,” said Ramirez, 46. “My doctor said that without a transplant I had about six months to live.”

Ramirez, a single mother, panicked about what would happen to her daughter Kyra, 17. Who would take care of her if she died? Would they respect her wishes and love her daughter well?

When work friend, Jane Bridges, asked Ramirez how things were going, honesty was the only answer.

“I immediately asked what I could do,” said Bridges, 52, of Melbourne, Florida. “I went online to Emory’s site to see if I could be a donor. I wasn’t eligible, but I wasn’t going to let a friend die because of my inaction.”

Though Jane Bridges was not eligible to be a donor, she was determined to help her co-worker, Jeanine Ramirez, find a match for her kidney transplant.  Courtesy of Jane Bridges

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Credit: Special

Though Bridges and Ramirez are co-workers at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, they’d never met in person. They both work from home in their respective states. When Bridges asked Ramirez for permission to email her contacts about the crisis, Ramirez said yes, please.

“I’ve worked with Jeanine for about 12 years, but have never met her in person, and had no idea about her health status until I read Jane’s email,” said Deibert, who works at the same company as the ladies and is based in Oklahoma. “Something about her story and knowing her through the years, I just felt like God was speaking to me. I felt like he was asking me to be the one.”

Within an hour of receiving the email, Deibert went to the Emory transplant website and began the process to see if he was a match. By the end of September, he received the news.

“Oddly, I wasn’t surprised that I was a match,” said Deibert, a father of two teenaged sons. “I had a feeling from the beginning. I told my wife, Laura, I thought the opportunity was God’s plan and her reply was ‘I can’t argue with that.’”

The Deiberts flew to Atlanta on Oct. 7 to meet Jeanine and her daughter and undergo more tests.

“That visit really confirmed everything,” said Deibert. “Jeanine is an awesome person and seeing her with her daughter made everything feel even more right.”

The surgery was scheduled for Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, which felt especially poignant as Ramirez is a veteran.

“I kept my guard up right until surgery,” said Ramirez. “I was nervous something would go wrong. I arrived at the hospital first and was scared until I heard the elevator doors open. I turned to see Jimmie and his wife praying.”

Jimmie Deibert felt called by God to donate a kidney to co-worker Jeanine Ramirez and was not at all surprised to find he was a perfect match. Courtesy of Laura Deibert

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Credit: spe

The three prayed together in the waiting room before Ramirez and Deibert were taken to side-by-side operating rooms. Six hours later, the operations were complete and Ramirez’ new kidney was functioning perfectly.

“By the next day my energy was like a 16-year old’s,” said Ramirez. “I was walking the halls and felt better than I had in probably 30 years.”

Bridges, determined to continue helping however she could, drove up from Florida and cared for Ramirez for two weeks after surgery. It was the first time they’d met in person.

“It was emotional, but also so familiar,” said Bridges. “I had to go help her. I just had to. If there’s something you can’t do personally, don’t sit back and put your hands up. There’s always something you can do.”

Both Ramirez and Deibert have thrived since the transplant. About three to four weeks after surgery, Deibert returned to his regular gym visits and has zero restrictions. Ramirez’ new kidney is functioning at 100%.

“I’m Kyra’s cheer coach at the high school and I’m her Girl Scout troop leader, as I have been since she was in kindergarten, but now I have so much more energy to enjoy this life,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez, Deibert, and Bridges agree their bond will endure. They are family now.

“We all just celebrated the two-month anniversary of “Sidney the Kidney,” said Ramirez. “I’m overwhelmed by my blessings and thankful for every day. When I hear Jane and Jimmie’s names, my heart does a backflip and I smile.”

For Jimmie, the opportunity to be a living donor has affirmed what he’s always known.

“You hear the saying ‘it’s more blessed to give than to receive’ and it’s absolute truth,” said Deibert. “What a huge joy to give such a gift. How often do you get to directly and immediately save someone’s life? I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, Jane was just as important as Jeanine’s advocate. It was God’s plan and we got to be part of it. How awesome is that?”


If you would like to learn more about becoming a living kidney donor, visit