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Love Has No Limits

Former Shriners Children's patient donates kidney to the Shriner who cared for her as a child.

Krystal, originally from the Evansville, Indiana area, was born with amniotic band syndrome.

The banding affected her right leg and right hand. Within the first month, the family was directed to Shriners Children’s St. Louis. Before her first birthday, Krystal had several surgeries and eventually an amputation to allow for a better prosthetic fit. When she was 1, Krystal was learning to walk with her first prosthetic.

Krystal’s care continued as she grew – specifically with her prosthetics – but care also included surgery on her right hand. Sometimes she traveled to St. Louis every couple months – or twice a year, depending on her needs and growth.

Getting back and forth to Shriners Children’s St. Louis would have been difficult for Krystal’s family, as her father worked long hours. So, they took local Shriners up on their offer for hospital transportation.

Dave Polen was a Hadi Shriner Chapter Driver Dad at the time. He met Krystal and her mom, Kelly, when Krystal was about 6 years old. It was easy connection. The conversations were plentiful on their three-hour back-and-forth trips to the hospital. Dave soon became more than a Driver Dad. He transformed into a friend. In fact, that friendship has lasted now for more than 30 years. Decades after meeting that “sweet little girl” with shining smile and a prosthetic leg, Dave was a guest at Krystal’s wedding.

Since I was little, I’ve always questioned why Dave was so good to us, because he was so kind and so willing to help out with anything.

As years rolled on, Dave became sick. Eventually, his doctors gave a diagnosis of end-stage renal failure. They said Dave would need dialysis for the rest of his life or a kidney transplant. Dave also got the warning that an available kidney might take five years to obtain.

It was at that point that Dave reached out to Krystal to get first-hand knowledge of the transplantation process. Krystal’s husband, Jeff, had recently received a living liver transplant that saved his life. Krystal had insight into organ transplantation that no one else in Dave’s life had, at the time.

During that conversation, Krystal immediately identified an opportunity to pay back the favor that saved her husband's life. She quickly found out that she shared the same blood type as Dave and, without hesitation, offered to donate her kidney.

Dave was shocked – and hesitant. He didn’t want to burden Krystal. She’d become someone he cared for very deeply. Dave knew Krystal was a mother to three with a full-time job.

However, Krystal wouldn’t take no for an answer. She told Dave the kidney belonged to him, whenever he decided to take it.

After a year on dialysis, Dave took her up on her offer.

“Pack your bags, Dave. You’re going to get a slightly used but new to you kidney,” laughed Krystal.

Krystal gave Dave the gift of life on May 9, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Since I was little, I’ve always questioned why Dave was so good to us, because he was so kind and so willing to help out with anything. I’ve always questioned why. What I’ve come to understand is if I was born with one leg so I could give my kidney to Dave – then so be it,” said Krystal.

“This is a gift I can’t ever repay. I am so thankful! Now, I feel like I can do anything I want to do. I didn’t realize how sick I was,” said Dave.

Connected Forever

A decades-old relationship leads to a life-saving donation.

Krystal and Dave in hospital

Krystal donated her kidney to Dave on May 9, 2023. Pictured: Dave and Krystal in the hospital on donation day.

young Krystal holding softball bat

As a child, Krystal played sports with the help of her prosthetic.

Dave and Krystal, Dave shirt reads "Kidney recipient, I run on spare parts." Krystal shirt reads "Kidney donor."

Krystal and Dave smile on donation day.

Krystal with her husband

Krystal's husband, Jeff, is an organ transplant recipient. Pictured: Krystal and Jeff.

Dave with family members

Dave is a husband, father and grandfather. Pictured: Dave, Wanda (wife), Derek (son), Cameron (grandson), Maddie (granddaughter).

Krystal holding sleeping son

Krystal cares deeply for the people in her life. Pictured: Krystal and Griffin (son).

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