ST. LOUIS - “I’ll be able to do what I want when I want again which I don’t remember what that’s like anymore.”
We’ve kept you posted on the good news story that unfolded thanks to a Facebook share, a desire to help, and a set of strangers who now share a forever bond - Old Monroe Police Officer Ryan Armistead is now recovering from his kidney transplant thanks to working Highland, Illinois mom Abbie Dunkle stepping up.
Now that they’re both recovering, we’re stepping back into the story—and why Dunkle stepped up.
This all began about three years ago, when Armistead was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder that ravaged his body. Because his kidneys were shot, he required hours of dialysis daily.
“You don’t realize how good you have it until you don’t have it,” he said. “I went from running and gunning, you know, you could pick up and go at any given point in time, to being confined to a machine.”
To bolster his chances of finding a donor, his wife Jessica set up a Facebook page, sharing messages and coverage of his journey.
“I was scrolling through Facebook one day and the story popped up, and this is something I wanted to do for a long time,” explained Dunkle. “And I thought, you know, why not?”
For being a perfect stranger, Dunkle lives a pretty normal life.
“Luckily I’m able to work from home full-time so I see the kids off to school and I go to work, and I’m here whenever the bus brings them home,” she said of her day to day. “They have Boy Scouts and basketball and all the normal things that they do, so we’re just a normal family.”
But with the support of her family, she decided to move on something she’d wanted to do for a long time.
“A number of years ago, I lost a very good friend of mine and her family actually chose to donate her organs, and after that i had the chance to meet the man who received her kidney,” she said. “It’s just something that’s been in the back of my mind to do for a very long time.”
So she contacted Barnes-Jewish Hospital, did the tests, and found out she was a match. She sent him a message the only way she knew him - through Facebook.
Armistead remembers exactly what he did when he read the message.
“Break down and cry and to think man, this couldn’t possibly be over,” he said. “There’s great people still around, you know I mean it’s hard to believe sometimes that these great people do exist.”
He says there’s a lesson in that for everyone who sees a story where they think they can help.
“Yeah I mean, just go out there and help somebody if you can.”
We met with Armistead the morning of the transplant.
“Today is the day that I finally get my life back,” he said. “What she’s doing for us is something that we can never ever repay her for.”
“I think I’ve been far more blessed by this than potentially even Ryan is going to be,” said Dunkle.
Not too long ago, they were strangers. Now they know they’ll always be connected.
“I think everything happens for a reason. There was a reason that his story popped up on my Facebook feed that day, there was a reason that this has been on my heart to do for such a long time,” she said. “There’s so much bad news in the world that if you can do something good then why wouldn’t you?”