Jan and Jeff Ross stand in their Conyers home where they are looking forward to spending the holidays with their family; Jan now has a new lease on life, thanks to her husband Jeff, who donated a kidney to her. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
This time of year, most husbands are out shopping for gifts for their wives, searching for items like jewelry, clothing and perfume. None of it can rival the gift that Jeff Ross recently gave to his wife Jan — his kidney.
Jan Ross’ kidneys began to fail a year ago after a surgery, but doctors expected the organs to function again after a few months. They didn’t.
Jan, 59, and Jeff, 62, prayed for her healing, and while the couple believes God answered their prayers, it wasn’t exactly how Jan expected.
“(Jeff) just very much wanted to make me well and he knew that he would do it. He cried when he told me, ‘I’m a match. This is going to happen.’ And he was never apprehensive about the surgery or concerned. He just knew that God was going to take care of us both,” said Jan Ross.
Ross said before her health problems began, she ate well, exercised and stayed busy working full time as a sonographer for an ob-gyn practice, a career she had for 20 years. One day after returning home while volunteering at her church, Heritage Hill Baptist Church, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach that made her drop to the floor in agony.
Four days later, doctors performed surgery for a blockage in her bowels formed by scar tissue. A day after surgery, she went into renal failure and had to start dialysis. Her hospital stay totaled 17 days and even when she left, her kidneys still didn’t function. Doctors said wait a few months and they will recover.
“But that didn’t happen. The levels kept going in the wrong direction, instead of in the right direction until after four months it was determined, it’s not going to come back,” she said.
She sought assistance at the Piedmont Transplant Unit and began evaluation to be placed on the transplant list. After she passed the tests to be on the list, she prepared herself to wait the requisite three to five years for a donor, that is unless she could find a live donor, in which case the operation could take place immediately.
Unbeknownst to her, her husband contacted Piedmont for blood a evaluation to find out if he was a compatible donor. He was.
When Jeff broke the news to Jan, she was surprised. Then again, she said, his response fit his personality.
“He’s very much a Mr. Fix-it. There’s nothing that breaks that he can’t fix, so he was going to fix this too,” said Jan who has been married to Jeff for 41 years. “It’s been rough on him to watch me suffer for so long. The dialysis had changed our lives drastically because he had to take me three times a week.”
Jeff wanted to know when the earliest it was that his wife could have the operation. Doctors told him Aug. 16 — with one hitch. Jeff had to drop 20 pounds.
He told doctors to save the date. He’d meet the weight with the six weeks he had left before the surgery. With healthy eating and six miles on the treadmill daily (which Jeff said was “not his idea of fun”) he dropped from 229 to 208. For comic relief, he sent weekly weigh-in photos to his case manager, pictures of his toes painted pink next to the newest weight on the scale.
The couple made it through the surgery well and and Jeff’s kidney started working immediately inside of Jan. During their recovery, the couple had assistance from their children, Jeremy Ross, 35, a Conyers resident, and Matthew Ross, 37, who lives in Acworth, along with other family and friends, especially those from Heritage Hills Baptist, who supplied meals and transportation to medical appointments.
Though Jan is no longer employed full-time, she still remains active in her church and enjoys caring for her grandchildren. Jeff, who is retired from the information technology field, is looking forward to getting back to work as a handyman.
“It truly is a miracle,” said Jan Ross of her second chance at life. “We definitely feel that way.”