Man surprises wife by walking miles to find her a kidney donor

Man surprises wife by walking miles to find her a kidney donor

(WTSP 10 News)


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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. — Jimmie Sue Swilling knew time was ticking down for her only kidney. When she finally needed a new kidney last year, her husband Larry came up with a unique way to find a donor.

Jimmie Sue, 76, was born with only one kidney, but did not find out until after she was married when she and Larry tried to have children. Doctors told her she might not be able to have any kids at all, but Jimmie Sue went on to have three children without any problems. However, they knew she would eventually need a new kidney.

Last September, the Swillings finally received the bad news: Jimmie Sue was going into kidney failure needed a transplant. Unfortunately, neither Larry nor their three children have the right blood types to donate a kidney. Larry was worried they wouldn't find a donor in time to save her, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"Before we went to bed that night, Jimmie Sue said, ‘What are we going to do?' I said, ‘I don't know, but I will figure something out,'" Larry told Yahoo Shine. "The answer came to me in the middle of the night."

The next morning, Larry got up out of bed without waking Jimmie Sue. He went and bought supplies to make a sign he could wear that said, "NEED KIDNEY 4 WIFE" in big, red letters with his number across the bottom. And then he went to work.


Before we went to bed that night, Jimmie Sue said, 'What are we going to do?' I said, 'I don't know, but I will figure something out.' The answer came to me in the middle of the night.

–Larry Swilling


"I walked 15 miles in 97 degree heat with torn cartilage in my knee," Larry Swilling said. "People offered me money, but I said, ‘I don't want your money; I want your kidney.' I was prepared to walk to Washington if I had to."

Larry and his sandwich board caught the attention of the local station who ran a story, which then went viral. After his walk, Larry says he received over 2,000 phone calls from people wanting to help and had to start forwarding them to the hospital where Jimmie Sue was receiving dialysis.

"If anything, we were just happy that our story had motivated people to donate," Larry said.

Larry decided to do his walk again, and added a few extra signs by his truck. He ended up walking another 54 miles. His son, Larry Jr., says he's not surprised by his dad's ambition.

"I heard about my dad's plan when my mother called me and said, ‘Your dad is on the street,'" Larry Jr. said. "That day, I brought him water because it was so hot. He's always been very resourceful. One year, when he lost his job before Christmas, he made sure we still had lots of presents, like the other kids."


I love her more now than I believe when I married her because we're not two. We're one. We need each other and we've been together so long.

–Larry Swilling


Even with all the publicity, the Swillings had still not found a donor with O positive blood until a few weeks ago.

"A 41-year-old woman from Virginia Beach recently read an article about my sign online and offered her kidney," Larry Swilling said. "Luckily, it was a match."

Jimmie Sue and her donor match underwent some tests and plan to have the operation sometime Wednesday. The Swillings say they were amazed by the generosity and are looking forward to meeting the woman who offered her extra kidney.

The Swillings will celebrate 56 years of marriage this December and hope that Jimmie Sue will be fully recovered by then.

"I love her more now than I believe when I married her because we're not two," he said. "We're one. We need each other and we've been together so long."

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Tracie Snowder

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