Couple Asks Community for Kidney Donation

Lee Sauerwald of Ripton is pleading with the public for a kidney for his wife, Grace

A married couple in Vermont’s Addison County is turning to the community for help in finding a medical miracle. 

Lee Sauerwald of Ripton is pleading with the public for a kidney for his wife, Grace. 

“I love my wife like crazy, so I would do anything for her,” Lee Sauerwald told necn Friday. 

Sauerwald put magnets on the back of the vehicles for his carpet cleaning business, urging potential donors to contact the University of Vermont Medical Center or the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. 

He also hung a sign in the window of a building his business shares with a gas station on Route 7 in Middlebury. The sign asks for a potential kidney donor to "share your spare" and tells people such a gift could save a life. 

“My husband is awesome,” beamed Grace Sauerwald, who has a condition that causes cysts to grow on kidneys. 

With no kidney function left, Grace now sits through 20 hours of home dialysis a week, she said. 

She added that she has been praying for a miracle for five years. 

“I am a Christian; I believe in God,” Grace Sauerwald said. “My faith is very strong, and I know He's not going to let me down.” 

The kidney patient said she thought she could get a donation from a deceased donor, but her doctors told her an elevated count of antibodies in her system meant a living donor may be a better match. 

That’s when the idea was born to put signs on the vehicles and in the window of the business. 

“It’s the ultimate gift,” Grace Sauerwald said of organ donation. “It's the gift of life!” 

Her devoted husband was set to give that gift himself, Lee Sauerwald explained, until an unexpected twist. 

“In my attempt to donate, they found out I had cancer,” he said. “And they managed to get rid of it. But I have to wait five years before I'm even considered again.” 

That pancreatic cancer discovery now has Lee convinced that Grace saved his life. 

Lee Sauerwald said he will continue aiming to extend his wife’s life by spreading the word about organ donation through the signs on his vehicles and business. 

“There are so many people who need kidneys,” Grace Sauerwald said. “Whether someone comes forward for me, or you can help someone else. There are so many!” 

On their window sign and vehicle magnets, the couple urges anyone interested in seeing if they’re a live donor match to contact the University of Vermont Medical Center at 877-467-5102 or the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center at 603-653-3931. 

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