Steve Winfree was excited to rip open up a brand new pack of Topps baseball cards. It has become a family tradition over the years. But this time, as he shuffled through the deck, he spotted something unusual — his very own playing card.
As he read the stats on the back, Winfree, who has been suffering from kidney disease for the past 14 years, broke down in tears.
“What the heck?” he asked, as his wife, Heather, sat beside him.
“What is it?” Heather asked, grinning.
Winfree began to read out loud: “Steve has had a lot on his plate. With his health issues, he’s been striking out a lot. He was not sure how he was going to wind up,” the card’s bio said. “His wife, Heather, thinks he’s a great catch so she’s just dying to go to bat for him. Now Steve will be a rookie recipient.”
It was at that moment, Winfree realized his wife was giving him the best gift of all — a new kidney, and a whole new life.
Heather had been tested to see if she could be a match a week earlier. Before she even received the results, she came up with the creative way to share the good news.
“I had already started planning how I was going to tell him before I knew I was a match,” Heather told CBS News. “I never considered I wouldn’t be a match. I guess I had to have faith I was going to be a match — that was keeping my hope alive.”
Steve Winfree was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at the age of 18. He was getting ready to play college basketball when doctors discovered he had high blood pressure during a pre-season physical.
After running more tests, Winfree was told he only had 50 percent kidney function. His dreams of playing college ball were over.
“He’s been through a lot,” Heather said. “Kidney disease is really hard. It’s been really hard.”
Since the couple met seven years ago, he’s developed severe gout, arthritis, undergone several surgeries and had to have a toe amputated. He’s been on dialysis for over a year.
“A year ago, they put a port in his chest and he ended up going into septic shock,” Heather added. “He spent seven days in the intensive care unit. I can’t tell you what that grief felt like, feeling like I was going to lose my husband.”
So when doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told Winfree he was eligible to get onto the transplant list in late June, Heather jumped at the opportunity to offer herself up as a living kidney donor.
“I said, ‘I want to expedite this. I want to help my husband get better,'” she explained.
Her wish came true when doctors confirmed the match. If everything goes well, Winfree could have surgery by the end of the month.
“Here I am, I have two kidneys and he needs one — why wouldn’t I improve his quality of life?” Heather said. “For 14 years of his life he’s been battling this disease and finally we have the relief of knowing the end is on the horizon. We’ve got hope.”