‘I Saw a Need, So I Helped Fill It:’ Volunteer Donates Kidney So Another May Live

Left to right are Mikel Prieto, M.D., Carroll Sharp, Tim Schroeder and Carrie Schinstock, M.D.
Left to right are Mikel Prieto, M.D., Carroll Sharp, Tim Schroeder and Carrie Schinstock, M.D.

As a new retiree, Carroll Sharp took patients to and from kidney dialysis and saw how their condition affected them. So when he learned about being a living kidney donor, he stepped up in a big way.

Carroll Sharp doesn't see what all the fuss is about. "I saw a need, so I helped fill it," he tells us. "It was something I could do, so I did." It's the kind of downplayed response one might expect from someone who's always been a giver. In 2014, Carroll was honored by Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Program in Florida when he reached the milestone of donating 100 gallons of blood.

But this was different. The need Carroll helped fill this time was a kidney, which two years ago he donated to a man he'd never met.

Carroll tells us it was a decision that had been brewing for quite some time. "When I first retired, I was driving a transport van for the American Red Cross," he says. "I drove people to and from kidney dialysis as well as other appointments," he tells us. "I could see that the people who were on dialysis — even though they were still alive, their quality of life was declining."

When Carroll moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and became a volunteer at Mayo Clinic a few years later, he decided to do his part to help change that. "When I started volunteering I learned it was possible to become a living kidney donor," he tells us. "I hadn't considered that before, so I just went ahead and filled out the paperwork."

There was a little more to it than that. But after checking all the boxes from a health standpoint, Carroll was told he had what it took to be a living organ donor. "At that point, they started looking for a recipient," he tells us.

That recipient turned out to be Tim Schroeder, a retired school teacher from New Ulm, Minnesota. "My kidneys had failed because of long-term diabetes," Tim tells us. "I'd been on dialysis for almost two years, and every day I prayed for a miracle."

Tim's prayers were answered on Oct. 17, 2017, when he received a call from Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center in Rochester, "asking me if I would like a kidney," he recently told the Florida Times-Union. "I said, 'You betcha.'"

Two days later, Tim was in an operating room at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where a transplant team led by Mikel Prieto, M.D., gave Tim his miracle, made possible by Carroll. "I woke up in recovery and my new kidney was working," Tim says. "I was simply ecstatic."

As he was, Tim says, when Dr. Prieto asked if he'd like to meet Carroll. "I of course said yes." So later that evening, Tim met Carroll and his wife, alongside Dr. Prieto and nephrologist Carrie Schinstock, M.D. "It was a very emotional meeting with a lot of tears," Tim tells us. "I just wanted to express my incredible gratitude for what's been a life-changing transformation."

True to form, Carroll tells us his contribution took "very little" effort on his part. "We came to Rochester on a Tuesday, had some more appointments on Wednesday, Dr. Prieto did the procedures on Thursday, and I was released from the hospital on Saturday morning," he says. "We then came back home to Jacksonville the following Tuesday. We stayed at the [Gift of Life] Transplant House after the procedure and I was able to walk back and forth to all of my follow-up appointments. I've had no problems at all."

Carroll tells us that's what he'd like others to take away from this story. "Yes, donating a kidney is a big deal, but on the other hand it wasn't difficult for me at all," he says. "I'm just happy Tim has a better life now because of it."

You can read more of Tim and Carroll's story, and his plans to ride in the upcoming Katie Ride to raise awareness and funds for organ donation, here. Then help make our lives better by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.