The coffee shop where I was seated was just about empty when David Tobey and his sister Sue walked in. I had first met Dave a few months ago to talk about his kidney donation to Sue. I had been so taken by the immense love and support he expressed for Sue and the entire Tobey family – which includes five other siblings and many nieces and nephews – that I wanted to learn more about their special story. In truth, I recall feeling a twinge of envy about the close familial bond I had perceived from Dave.
I have come to believe that this extraordinary love and Sue’s “take it as it comes” attitude saved Sue’s life.
Five years ago Sue was diagnosed with FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulo sclerosis), a disease that occurs when the filter on the kidney is damaged and becomes scarred. When this happens, the kidney is no longer able to adequately perform its function of filtering blood. With this diagnosis, Sue was told it was only a matter of time before she would require dialysis or a new kidney.
With no hesitation or prompting, every member of the Tobey family – all six of Sue’s siblings – eagerly went through testing with the intention of helping their sister resume her life as a wife and active mother of three. Dave, a twin and the second youngest of the family, turned out to be a perfect match, and better yet he was deemed an excellent candidate because he was extremely healthy and fit.
It was quite unexpected to Sue’s team of doctors – and to the Tobey family – when Sue’s body almost instantly rejected her brother’s kidney.
Sue’s transplant team was able to reverse the rejection. But it was the better part of a year filled with near death moments before Sue was in the clear.
The Tobey’s were no strangers to a family crisis. They had lost their own Mom to cancer when Sue was just 17 years old. So when their sister met with life-threatening complications, the Tobey’s rallied hard but seamlessly.
They all pitched in to make meals, help Sue’s and Dave’s family with house chores, and assist with additional expenses that come up when family members are in the hospital. Sue expressed that she did not want her son & daughters lives to be interrupted with her illness. At the ages of 12, 17 and 18, they were like most kids busy with school and sports activities. So the family helped get the kids where they had to be.
As Sue and Dave relayed their story, I witnessed a beautiful love. Dave is protective of her in a delightful way. And I found it so endearing that her other brothers and sisters were so selflessly involved in her road to wellness.