By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
Kokomo — Editor's note: This story has been changed from its original state to correct the spelling of April Hankley's name and the age of her son.
This week April Hankley will receive a priceless gift from her friend Kim Keating. It is the gift of a return to a normal life.
Keating, 35, will donate a kidney to Hankley, 40, who has been on the waiting list for a match for the past 13 months.
The two women have been friends for 12 years. Kim is married to Danny Keating and April is engaged to his cousin, Rusty.
Hankley learned in December 2011 that she would need a kidney transplant, but the journey to a kidney transplant started when she was a teenager.
“I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 13,” she said. “The diabetes took a toll on my kidneys.”
Hankley has been on dialysis nightly for more than a year while awaiting a match for the kidney transplant.
“I started testing to go on the list for a kidney transplant the day I started dialysis,” she said. “Most family members were tested and were not a match. I’m O positive, which is a rare blood type.”
Hankley said her 22-year-old son wanted to be the donor, but she didn’t want him to undergo the operation.
“I wanted him to be the last resort,” she said. “Actually, I wanted Kim to wait to see if I would come up on the donor list. I didn’t want to go through this.”
Although Hankley knew Keating was considering being tested, she didn’t learn of the match until just before Thanksgiving.
“We started talking about it last October,” Keating said. “When I discovered we had the same blood type, I went down to IU Health to be tested. They called a few weeks later and told me it was a match.
“It didn’t surprise me after I knew what her blood type was,” she said. “There was no hesitation in making the decision to donate a kidney.”
If Keating hadn’t agreed to donate a kidney, Hankley said she might have been on the list waiting for a match for two more years.
The two women followed their normal weekend routine, dining out and playing cards together with family and friends.
“We’re almost like sisters,” Hankley said. “This is an answer to prayers.
“My mom and dad are loving Kim even more than they already did.” Both women laughed.
Hankley is also expected to receive a pancreas transplant later this year.
“This is an opportunity to raise awareness about organ donation,” she said. “I hope this will encourage people to be a donor.”
Both are listed as organ donors on their Indiana driver’s license.
“I wondered if I should put a note on my driver’s license, that if anything happens to me make sure April gets my kidney,” Keating laughs.
Keating is a former paramedic and has family members who are a doctor and nurses.
“It’s not as scary to me as to someone else with no medical knowledge and background,” she said.
After the surgery on Wednesday, Keating plans to return to Kokomo in time for her daughter’s prom.
“It’s exciting and nerve wracking,” she said of the upcoming surgery. “I’m scared to death.”
She works as a special education aide at Taylor Intermediate School and is looking forward to visiting the students as soon as possible.
“I’ve been very open with them,” Hankley said. “They’ve seen the tube in my stomach. The kids made me a big pillow case.”
With the surgery upcoming, the two have maintained their sense of humor.
“I told her if she hit the lottery, I was going to sell the kidney to her,” Keating laughed.