Mom Offers Her Kidney to Police Officer She'd Never Met

Ryan Armistead and Abbie Dinkle pose before surgery.
Ryan Armistead and Abbie Dinkle before they were wheeled into surgery. Ryan Armistead

Illinois mom Abbie Dunkle had long wanted to be a kidney donor.

Illinois mom Abbie Dunkle had long wanted to be a kidney donor. When a dear friend died 19 years ago and her organs were donated, Abbie ended up meeting the man who got her friend's kidney.

Ever since she has wanted to bestow that lifesaving gift to someone else. And last summer, she saw that opportunity present itself in he form of Facebook post about Ryan Armistead, a police officer in Missouri who was in desperate need of a kidney transplant.

"The fact that he's a stranger didn't really matter to me," Dunkle told Thursday. 

Armistead was diagnosed four years ago with a rare auto-immune disorder that damaged his kidneys beyond repair. Six months later, he was on dialysis five days a week for three hours a day — a devastating regime that continued until last month, when he received a kidney from Dunkle.

After seeing the Facebook post about Armistead's problem, she began the medical tests that would determine whether her organ was a match for him.

When everything came back positive, Dunkle messaged Armistead.

Abbie Dunkle

In Missouri, Armistead and his wife, Jessica, were scrolling through his phone when Dunkle's message popped up.

"I literally fell to me knees and broke down in tears," he said. "So did my wife."

Just before Christmas, Dunkle and her husband came to Armistead's home. "Just to see my machine and what I had to go through," Armistead said. "That's when it hit home that this was a real deal."

The two couple talked about their children — Dunkle has two boys and the Armisteads have a 5-year-old son — and about their lives and jobs and then they went to lunch. 

Ryan Armistead

"We all just kind of hit it off," Dunkle said. "He's just like a regular guy. This could happen to anyone."

On Jan. 22, they were both wheeled into surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Everything went well,  and two weeks later, life seems mighty precious to both of them.

Ryan Armistead

"I'm great. I feel amazing," Armistead said. "I'm up, moving around. I just feel a whole lot better." He has an 18-inch incision from the transplant. "It's a little sore, but what do you expect?"

Dunkle feels a little tired as her body adjusts to having one kidney, but she was told to expect that at first. "I'm feeling really good," she said. "I'm doing well."

The Armisteads and the Dunkles are now fast friends. Abbie and Ryan talk nearly every day. "It's amazing to me that a piece of me is living in his body," she said.

Armistead worries a little about the medical costs he faces, both for his surgery and Abbie's as well. He estimates his family will be responsible for about $50,000 in hospital bills not covered by insurance. He and his wife have established a GoFundMe page to help meet those demands. 

"We'll just have to make payments as best we can," he said. Then he laughed. "They can't come repo it," he said, referring to his new kidney.

Meanwhile, his son, Gregory, is thrilled to have his daddy back. "He is happy that this stupid machine is going to be leaving the house," Armistead of his dialysis device. "I was hooked up to it every evening and a lot of times, especially when the weather was nice, I couldn't go outside to play with him."

Ryan Armistead

Gregory called the machine a "piece of junk."