dscharber.jpgDelphine Katherine Scharber was 23 years old and recently wed when her kidneys began to fail.
It was 1965, and doctors at the University of Minnesota had only been performing kidney transplants for two years. But the operation was a risk Scharber, and her mother Ottilia Winter, 52, were willing to take.
When she went under the knife, Scharber was one of the first volunteers to ever receive a kidney transplant, and her mother was one of the first living donors. Despite the newness of the procedure, the operation was a success and the donated kidney gave Scharber another 45 years to be married to her husband Bob, raise her daughter Julie, watch her grandsons play football and volunteer at her church. She also spent three decades working as a fiscal officer at the University of Minnesota-College of Education.
“She was always happy, always smiling,” said Diane Wiener, who volunteered with Scharber. “She once told me, ‘Every day I have is a gift. I could have not been here.’”
Kidney transplants are now one of the most common transplant operations performed in the U.S. At the time of this writing, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network reports that more than 108,000 people are on a waiting list for a kidney. Although 58 percent of patients who receive kidneys from living donors survive for more than 10 years, Scharber was one of the longest-living kidney transplant patients in history.
Scharber died on Sept. 29 of a rare endocrine cancer. She was 69. At the time of her death, the donated kidney was still functioning.