What you won’t do, do for love. In today’s world we encounter countless forms of violence, negativity, and hardship. I was inspired to take a minute to celebrate compassion and togetherness.
Firefighter, husband, son, brother and living organ donor Ryan Zuber went the extra mile for his beautiful wife Lucrecia Zuber. Full disclosure and shameless brag, Ryan is my first cousin. Our fathers are brothers. We have always been very close because we think alike. Recently I caught up with Ryan’s wife who he affectionately calls ‘Cre’ and discussed how her life has evolved since she met and fell in love with Ryan.
“I met Ryan at work in 2007. We were working the third shift at a technology company. The office would be empty. We were sitting at work emailing each other all night. He would send extra long emails trying to sound all smart. I would reply with a few sentences and he was like ‘really that’s all you got?’ We started dating in 2008 and things were going really really well. ”
It’s amazing talking to someone about the person they love. I could tell Cre would talk about Ryan all day if I let her and he is the exact same way. However, love like life rarely goes according to plan and the couple broke up for a year. Lucrecia explained that Ryan had some maturing to do. She was forced to swerve him until he was ready.
“A year later I saw him at the club on his birthday. So cliche.”
We shared a serious giggle.
“He told me ‘I promise you if you just give me one chance I’m gonna marry you.’ I was like yeah whatever, but I guess it was destined to happen.”
At this point, I realized the love story had distracted me from the purpose of our conversation and I asked Cre to tell me about the issues she was experiencing with her kidneys. She explained that she suffered from Nephrotic Syndrome also known as Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis since December of 1998. There is no known cause or cure.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder usually caused by damage to the clusters of small blood vessels in your kidneys that filter waste and excess water from your blood. Cre knew something was wrong when she was experiencing extreme swelling in her face. She learned the swelling was from the scarring in her kidneys. The disease naturally increases the risk of other health problems, luckily her case was treated early and remained controlled. Cre was told in 1998 upon diagnosis, she would need a transplant in a few years. She elected not to worry and to keep living her life! She took medication to remain stable. Despite the disease she graduated from college, joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and continued to be bright and beautiful.
“I got pregnant on my birthday in 2011. I wasn’t suppose to get pregnant. I was already warned not to because it was going to deteriorate my kidneys. But we went through with it anyway.”
It was beautiful hearing her hash out this painful memory with Zoey playing in the background. Their baby is extremely creative and independent. Blissfully unbothered our conversation she chilled conversing with herself not too far from her Mommy. I asked Lucrecia about her pregnancy.
“We ended up having her eight weeks early because of the deterioration. It was a great pregnancy. I didn’t have all of the swelling and spreading of the nose and other stuff. They were just concerned about the levels in my kidneys. I went to the doctor on a Thursday and was told to come in for delivery the following Tuesday. I had her in March 2012. By July the doctor was prepping me for the donor transplant list.”
We went on to talk about our family and how much we both love and admire Ryan’s strength and determination. We talked about Memphis and the visits we had over the years. All along I never realized Cre was sick. I was distracted by barbecue and sneaking onto Beale street. Which was an obstacle at the time because I wasn’t 21 yet. We laughed at these memories and began to discuss the next steps in the transplant process. So many people wait years for organs, I wondered how she came to receive the new kidney.
“Ryan told me the moment I found out I was pregnant that he was going to give me his kidney. I really thought I was gonna be fine. But he knew. And he always stands by his word. A Lot of people were telling him ‘you never know… you might need your kidney down the line… that’s too much to give up’ but he knew that’s what he wanted to do.”
The decision to be a living organ donor is a mirror reflection of Ryan’s extraordinary character. Being strong willed is an element of our genetic makeup.
Ryan began to workout regularly once he made the decision to give Cre a kidney. I remember vividly because we would be on the phone for hours while he was in the gym. He posted countless pictures on Facebook with captions like ‘ab game on point.’
“A lot of people got tested. My mom, some of my sorority sisters, even my half-brother tried – none were matches. A few people were matches and had to do blood pressure tests. The issue was a lot of times African Americans have high blood pressure, this ruled out a lot of candidates as well. Ryan was at one point disqualified for this reason but he had his doctor send an authorization saying they approve of his blood pressure levels. This narrowed the pool down to Ryan and another girl friend of mine. We were advised that she could have trouble getting pregnant down the line. So Ryan stood by me and did everything he could to make sure we would both be fine. He even put me on a diet to make sure I would be in the best position I could for healing!”
Cre shared that the procedure took about eight hours. The removal, the preparation, and the insertion. The couple was in the hospital for about a week. My Aunt Dottie (Ryan’s mom) kept me updated and prayed with me over the phone. Ryan recovered quickly. The doctors tried to discharge him. But Ryan continued to pretend things were wrong so he wouldn’t have to leave Cre in the hospital alone. Insurance covered both of the surgeries however, there were lots of out of pocket expenses. Hardships came about during healing time for the couple. Being young homeowners with a baby did make for a financial strain but they made it work.
“I feel like our whole situation changed Ryan’s outlook on life.”
I agree with Cre wholeheartedly. Ryan has always been a standup individual. Loving and taking care of his family and friend to the full extent of his capabilities but now he is next level. Ryan is a pillar of his community and a phenomenal role model. He recently graduated with a degree in psychology, became a firefighter and is studying for nursing school.
“I don’t think we would have got to this point if everything was normal. He has always been a caring person. I’ve seen a great change in him. I love him so much. He is the love of my life.”
My hope is that this story inspires you to hold onto love and faith in humanity. Kindness counts. Sharing is caring. I hope one day when it’s time for someone to love me that I’m loved the way Ryan loves Lucrecia. I’m glad they decided to email back and forth during the third shift.