When couples are described as a perfect match, their organs are not usually considered in this description. However, when Travis Van Bussum needed a match for kidney transplantation, his wife Amanda literally came to the rescue.
On Dec. 14, 2018, the Van Bussums introduced the Facebook community to their newest challenge — Travis’s need of a kidney.
“Hello everyone, and welcome to our page to keep you informed and updated on this new chapter of our lives,” the post read. “Those of you who know us well, probably recognize the profile picture from our adoption photo shoot. For those of you who may not be familiar with us, our names are Travis and Amanda Van Bussum, and just over a year and a half ago, we were blessed with the greatest gift of adopting the three sweet faces you see in our picture. We had been fostering them for nearly three years before the adoption finalized, but God led us all to our forever, together, as we prayed many times for Him to do. We are now leaning on God again, as we prepare for a new challenge. Travis is in need of a kidney.”
The post explained that, as a child, doctors found a tumor on one of Travis’ kidneys and that kidney was removed. He also underwent aggressive chemotherapy for six months.
“For most of his life, Travis was in remission, just a normal little boy, normal teen guy, normal young man…normal,” wrote Amanda.
Shortly after Travis and Amanda began dating in 2012, Travis told her about his history with cancer and some heart issues he had been experiencing.
“When I first heard this, I didn’t realize to what extent it would end up impacting our future together — but not in a negative way at all,” Amanda said.
Within the year, Travis’ nephrologist determined his heart issues to be a result of his remaining kidney and that over time he would experience kidney failure and need a transplant.
Hoping to preserve the kidney’s function, which was 30-40 percent at the time, Amanda became diligent about preparing renal-friendly meals for him.
“Being young and in love, I remember thinking that, when the time came, I’d try to give him my kidney,” Amanda said.
About a month before their 2013 wedding, the couple was devastated when they learned they would be unable to conceive a child because of the aggressive chemotherapy Travis had received as a child.
Once again, there was a bigger plan for the couple. On their first wedding anniversary, they had three children. Though not legally theirs, they were their foster “babies.”
“In May of 2017 we signed the papers, officially adopting the children that we’d loved with our entire hearts for two years and eight months — over 900 days,” Amanda said. “We thought life would calm down now — that we’d be ‘normal.'”
Eighteen months later, Travis’ nephrologist said his kidney function was less than 20 percent and referred him to Jewish Hospital in Louisville.
Prior to Travis’ first appointment, he caught a stomach virus and ended up in the hospital, and it was then Amanda realized that his body could not fight much longer. She credits his medical team at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital in getting him healthy enough to travel to his Louisville appointment.
After being educated about kidney transplantation in Louisville, Amanda asked to be on the donor list. She was told by the living donor coordinator that, because the cost of testing is so high, only one person would be tested at a time until they found a match.
“Since becoming a mother, I’d gone back and forth between attempting to donate and not,” Amanda said. “I didn’t want to neglect our children, but I wanted to do all I possibly could for my husband.”
After putting their story on Facebook in December, Amanda said over 30 people reached out willing to be tested.
“The most touching were Travis’ past and current students at Apollo who wanted to help in this selfless manner, saying it’s ‘the least they could do,’” Amanda said about their “beloved Owensboro community.”
In the beginning of January, Amanda received a call from Jewish Hospital informing her she could be tested. Although she was equally scared and excited, she believed that, if she was meant to donate, she would be a match and “trust that God would provide.”
“If I wasn’t a match then I figured my role would be to be Travis’ champion and caregiver through this,” Amanda said.
Amanda overnighted her living donor kit to Louisville to discover that blood and tissue from the kit were a match. So Amanda traveled to Louisville for the necessary testing and to meet with a social worker to determine if she was healthy enough to withstand surgery and could live with one kidney.
By the end of January, she was confirmed to be a complete match — something that she said still leaves her speechless.
“And God has provided. Our community is simply astounding,” Amanda said. “I work at Owensboro Catholic Middle School, and the Owensboro Catholic School System and families have responded in a big way. The awesome Eagle family at Apollo has been equally generous. Our church has been just phenomenal. Our children have been cared for. We’ve had a meal delivered to our door every night for nearly a month. We have been flooded with gift cards and well wishes.”
Amanda said this has not been nearly as scary as they initially thought because of the love and support that has surrounded them.
“I am so grateful that God created me in a way that allows me to give this gift to my husband. And I’m so grateful to live in this sweet town that has made sure all our needs have been provided for and that has truly covered us in prayer,” Amanda said. “ We are forever blessed and grateful.”
The Van Bussums will be in surgery on Tuesday and will remain in the hospital until Friday when they can return home. Then they will both be off of work for at least four weeks.
“I’m eager to get past this so that we can start paying it back and paying it forward,” Amanda said. “Because God and this community have been so good to us.”