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Thankful for an 'angel': Woman steps up to donate kidney

Leslie Dickinson and Rob Mooney sitting together on June 20 after Dickinson donated one of her kidneys to Mooney on June 19. Submitted photo1 / 2
Rob Mooney of Spring Valley found his angel when Leslie Dickinson decided to get tested to see if she was a match to donate a kidney to Mooney. After many tests she got the news that she was in fact a match. The surgeries were scheduled for June 19 and Dickinson said it made a great Father's Day present for Mooney. Pictured (from left) Crystal Mooney (Rob's wife), Rob Mooney, and Leslie Dickinson. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

A Pierce County man recently received the unexpected news that a living kidney donor had been found for him and it was someone close by.

Prescott native Rob Mooney, who lives outside of Spring Valley and has lived in River Falls, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2014; it progressed to stage 4 renal failure in 2017. He was placed on two different transplant lists in September 2017, one for just a kidney and one for a kidney and pancreas. But he knew the immediate need was for a kidney.

In February, the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal ran a story about Mooney and his need for a living kidney donor. Leslie Dickinson of Ellsworth, a coworker of Crystal Mooney (Rob's wife), read the story and her wheels started turning.

"When I read the article something higher up told me I had to do testing [to try and be a donor]," said Dickinson.

Dickinson said prior to reading the article, she didn't really know Crystal and her family and didn't even know donating a kidney was something she could do.

"I didn't even know it was possible," she said. "[I] am a donor on my driver's license, but I didn't know you could be a living donor."

Prior to Dickinson going through testing to be a donor, she saw Crystal sometimes at work but that was all. Now they have gotten much closer.

"I knew Leslie, but didn't know Leslie," Crystal said.

Now, a bond has been formed between the two families that can't be broken.

"We've gained a new family member and all her children," Crystal said about Dickinson, who feels the same way.

"I already told him [Rob] we are connected for life," Dickinson said. "I said, I look forward to meeting all your grandchildren."

Finding a donor to save his life is something Rob had hoped for, but didn't realize it would happen.

"I really didn't think I was going to find a living donor at all," Rob said.

When he got the news that Dickinson was going to give him a kidney, Rob said he began to look forward to a future he hadn't allowed himself to imagine.

"I got some projects done, I have reasons to do stuff," Rob said. "Maybe I was in depression already. I feel like I have a life again, a future."

When Dickinson found out she was a match and the hospital was setting up the surgery, she said she had hoped the surgery could be right after Father's Day.

"It [surgery] was a week after Father's Day," Dickinson said. "My gift to Rob for Father's Day. We have kids around the same age. He has a right to live as much as I do."

Crystal said now Rob will be able to spend time with his children and grandchildren because of Dickinson.

"You [Leslie] gave the kids back their father," Crystal said.

While Dickinson was going through testing to see if she could be a match, she was able to hold her emotions together, but when she spoke with Crystal that changed.

"She [Crystal] just said you saved a life, I started crying," Dickinson said.

Rob and Crystal are both thankful that Dickinson was willing to donate her kidney for someone she didn't even know.

"I don't know that there are any words for someone to do this [donate her kidney] to a stranger," Crystal said.

Rob said he isn't usually good at expressing his feelings but he wrote a poem for Dickinson about the gift her gift (see "God's Plan" in sidebar).

Dickinson said the whole process to sign up to be a donor, get tested, make sure she was healthy enough to donate a kidney, and finding out if she was a match took about eight weeks. She said she was constantly asked if she was sure she wanted to donate a kidney and her answer has always been yes. She said she never questioned that she should donate the kidney. Dickinson said she would most likely be in the hospital for one or two days and off work for about six weeks.

Rob said he was in the hospital for four to five days and will be off work for six to eight weeks. However, he wants to be back working as soon as he can.

"I plan to go back to work as soon as I physically can, as soon as the doctors allow me to," Rob said.

Both Rob and Dickinson were at the hospital bright and early on June 19 as they were getting ready for their surgeries.

"They are both doing great," Crystal said on June 21. "Rob is being moved out of ICU today. Leslie should get to go home [June 21]. It was a hard first day. But everything should be getting better from here."

Rob said he can't express enough how grateful he is to Dickinson for saving his life.

"Although receiving a kidney from this angel [Dickinson] is a part of this miracle it is not truly when this miracle really happened," Rob posted on his Facebook page June 21. "This miracle happened months ago when God reached down into Leslie's heart and gave her the drive and strength to save my life. To jump through all the hoops and hurdles and appointments. To endure all the worries of missing work. Leslie had faith that everything was going to be okay. God has directly touched her soul and will forever be my angel. Thank you for saving my life Leslie Dickinson."

To help with the cost of the surgeries and to help with Rob being off work after the surgery, there will be a benefit from noon until 4 p.m. June 30 at the River Falls American Legion Post 121. Crystal said the American Legion donated the hall for the benefit, which will include a bouncy house, raffle prizes, silent auction, kid games, face painting, bake sale and free will donation meal. Anyone who has questions about the benefit or wants to donate items can contact Kim Mooney at 715-220-9188. Information about the benefit can be found at www.facebook.com/events/371406006600191/.

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