Chelsey Abbott had been ready to donate a kidney since she was a teenager, when she first learned a person can live with only one. It was just a matter of waiting for the right time … and the right person.

“I wanted to donate then, but a family friend suggested I wait; that I may know someone personally one day that I could help,” said Abbott.

After earning her elementary education degree from Missouri Southern in 2020, Abbott began teaching third grade at Carthage’s Steadley Elementary. She was placed in a classroom next to fellow third-grade teacher and mentor Jenny Worrall.

She learned that Worrall’s husband, Jason – a 2007 graduate of MSSU who taught special education at Carthage Junior High – suffered from polycystic kidney disease.

Jason was in his early 20s when his kidneys began to shut down from the hereditary disease. Cysts on his kidneys continued to grow and rupture, leading to blood loss and fatigue. He had multiple blood transfusions, but they were always just a temporary fix.

“I was so weak, I could barely get from one end of the hallway to the other,” said Jason.

By early 2021, his kidneys were functioning at just 15 percent and he began in-patient dialysis. Eventually he progressed to home therapy, where he was connected to a dialysis machine for eight hours each night as well as several times throughout the day.

“It was at this time that my wife put it out there that I was looking for a kidney,” he said.

“Watching Jenny and her family go through her husband’s health deteriorating, I thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to donate a kidney, strangely enough,’” said Abbott.

Jenny gave Abbott a phone number to call, where she was asked basic health questions followed by a social screening. After monitoring her blood pressure for five days, she went to KU Medical Center to meet with the transplant team for an assessment.  Last November, both were admitted to the hospital for their surgeries.

“I thought on the day of surgery I would be so nervous, but I was just at peace. I just knew it would be all right,” said Abbott. “My mom passed of a brain aneurism, and we donated her organs. That was a huge lifeline during that process of losing her. I’ve seen what it can do for the donor’s family, and what it can mean to the recipients.”

Recovery for each procedure differs, but both have gone smoothly. Abbott was back at work four weeks later, but said she felt ready at three. Now, she said it’s like nothing ever happened.

“It’s been so great being able to watch Jason get better. It seems like such a small price to pay: four weeks of my life for the rest of his,” she said. “I think if more people understood that it really is that simple … if you’re waiting on a deceased donor, it can take years.”

In the organ transplant community, it’s common for recipients to name their donated organ. Jason named his kidney Michelle, after Abbott’s mother and the gift of life she gave.

After three months of recovery time to build back his strength and immune system, Jason was healthy enough to return to the classroom. He will remain on antirejection medication, which has drawbacks, but they’re nothing compared to daily dialysis, he said.

“Now I just try to eat healthy and live a normal life,”