COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jonathan Schriber calls it a battle where he didn’t mind admitting defeat. Twice.
Back in the early 1980s, the former Sidney pastor discovered he had a disease that would lead to a deterioration in his kidney function. It took 20 years for it to really take its toll, but by 2000, he needed a transplant.
Because they’re not blood-related, he didn’t think his wife would end up being a good match. But she was. But that doesn’t mean it was an instant done deal.
“That was a big argument that I lost,” he said. “I didn’t want her or any of the kids to go through this. And she just, boy, you talk about stubborn. She was not giving up on this. But it was one of the neatest things we went through together. I mean, just that love and commitment and sacrifice that she was willing to do for me just drew us even closer together than we had been.”
Jonathan and Gaile Schriber will celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary this June. And she says nothing would have stopped her from ensuring her husband would make it there.
“I love my husband very much,” she said. “And we have four children. How could I deny my children their father. And that’s why I did it.”
The surgery happened at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on Aug. 21, 2000. Gaile Schriber was one of the first to undergo minimally invasive kidney donor surgery, which was rare back then.
Little did either of them know that they would find themselves back in the same hospital, two decades later.
After 20 years or so, the kidney Jonathan received from his wife started to deteriorate. It became clear he would need a new one. And he didn’t have to go too far to find it, although he didn’t go searching for it that way.
“I was determined to make it happen and make all of our lives better,” The couple’s adult son, Joshua, started the process on his own, without telling his parents.
He got his blood tested, found out he was a match and started the ball rolling from there. It also was not a sure thing he would be a match for his father because he was adopted. But both were A positive.
“My parents both always stuck by me, and so, the opportunity to do something like this, you know, it was always a matter of if I could, not if I would,” Joshua said.
But his father was not immediately on board. He faced the same struggle as he had before – not wanting a loved one to go through major surgery.
“Again, I had kids that wanted to, and I said, no, we’re not going down this road again,” Jonathan said. “Well, I lost that battle again.”
On Jan. 25, Joshua donated a kidney to his father. His surgeon that day was Dr. Amer Rajab, the same man who had operated on his mother all those years ago.
Gaile Schriber said it was then she knew her son would be in good hands.
“If you don’t believe in God, walk up at a transplant floor and look at his angels,” she said. “It takes a special person to do what they do.”
Weeks from the surgery, everyone is doing well. Joshua is back home in Cincinnati. And Jonathan is now living with a family of kidneys within him – his wife’s, his son’s, and the two of his own.
“Why should I be this fortunate,” Jonathan asked. “But I just thank God every day for both my wife, Gaile, and Josh, and the supreme gift they gave me, willing to go through these surgeries.”
The entire family now believes more than ever in the power of organ donation, grateful for the extended time with each other.
“People that give this gift, their lives are changed forever,” Gaile said. “It’s hard to explain how, but it is. You look at the world differently. And every day I thank God that they’re both all right.”