Months after a police officer made a personal post on Facebook, a stranger decided to send him a message. The stunned cop read the stranger’s “heads up,” telling him that life as he knew it was about to change. And, the words dropped him to his knees.
Ryan Armistead, a police officer with the Old Monroe Police Department in Lincoln County community, Missouri, had his life turned upside down years ago. Suffering headaches, he visited the doctor, only to receive news he never expected. “You need to go to a hospital, you’re at 13 percent kidney function,” he was told, and his life changed in that instant.
Doctors discovered Ryan suffers from an autoimmune disease that destroyed his kidneys. He began dialysis treatments and was immediately put on the transplant list. For three hours a day, five times a week, Ryan endured dialysis, hoping for a donor. After years of waiting, however, he was growing desperate.
The devastating regime of dialysis was taking its toll on Ryan, his wife Jessica, and their son Gregory, Fox2 reported. “It’s hard on everybody ’cause you have to revolve your life around this,” Ryan explained, pointing to his dialysis machine. It had been three years since his diagnosis, but sadly, doctors said it could take as many as seven years to find a match.
With a ton of support from his police chief and fellow officers, Ryan continued to patrol and protect Old Monroe. Seeing her husband serve his community, Jessica hoped someone in the community would step up to save the officer who put his life on the line for them. So, she created a Facebook page, sharing Ryan’s story, which made headlines.
Eventually, a post reached Abbie Dunkle, an Illinois mom who decided to look into Ryan’s situation further. After receiving some shocking news months later, Abbie decided to send Ryan a message. She realized Ryan’s life was about to change. Although she knew he’d eventually find out, she couldn’t wait for someone else to tell him.
After introducing herself, Abbie explained that she saw Ryan’s story on Facebook months before. Then, she revealed what she had been doing without his knowledge. “I started the process to see if I might be a match for you. I finished the process last week,” Abbie wrote. “We’re a match!”
Abbie had long wanted to be a donor after a dear friend died 19 years before and donated their organs. When Abbie met the man who got her friend’s kidney, she knew she too wanted to give someone the gift of life someday. Seeing Ryan’s story, she saw her opportunity. “The fact that he’s a stranger didn’t really matter to me,” Abbie told Inside Edition.
Abbie’s message popped up while Ryan and Jessica were scrolling through his phone. “I literally fell to my knees and broke down in tears,” Ryan recalled. “So did my wife.” Years after his life-changing diagnosis, Ryan Armistead’s life was going to drastically change once again — this time for the better and because of a kind stranger.
In her message, Abbie said Ryan’s transplant coordinator would be contacting him the following week, but she thought he might want to know sooner. “If you are not wanting to be in touch, I completely understand and you don’t need to respond,” she wrote. “Please don’t feel obligated, but I am happy to get to know you before the transplant if you’d like.”
The Armisteads decided to take Abbie up on her offer, inviting her and her husband to their home. “Just to see my machine and what I had to go through,” Ryan explained. “That’s when it hit home that this was a real deal.” The following month, the two were both wheeled into surgery.
The transplant was a success. “I’m great. I feel amazing,” Ryan said. “I’m up, moving around. I just feel a whole lot better,” he added. “It’s a little sore, but what do you expect?” he said, referring to his 18-inch incision from the transplant.
“I’m feeling really good,” Abbie said, although she was tired as her body adjusted to having one kidney. “I’m doing well,” she added, still somewhat in disbelief over the ordeal. “It’s amazing to me that a piece of me is living in his body.”
Estimating that roughly $50,000 in hospital bills won’t be covered by insurance, Ryan’s family started a GoFundMe. “We’ll just have to make payments as best we can,” Ryan said. “They can’t come repo it,” he laughed, referring to his new kidney. Although Ryan worries about the medical costs he faces for his and Abbie’s surgeries, both received much more than money can buy.
Abbie gave up a kidney but gained a friend, and Ryan got his life back, complete with newfound freedom — something his son was excited about too. “He is happy that this stupid machine is going to be leaving the house,” Ryan said of his dialysis device and Gregory’s excitement to see it gone. “I was hooked up to it every evening … I couldn’t go outside to play with him,” he added, pointing out life’s blessings that many of us often take for granted.