November 12, 1999

Series: ‘In sickness and in health’ not just a phrase to this couple

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Chip and Melissa Keeble spend some quality time with their three ‘babies;’ Hoover the cat, Kirby (center) and Windsor. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Series: 'In sickness and in health' not just a phrase to this couple

Chip Keeble never gave it a second thought.

As doctors were telling his wife, Melissa that she would need a kidney transplant, he wanted to know one thing — where to get tested.

"I didn't hesitate. I just wanted to give her one of my kidneys" Keeble recalls. "My thought was simple: my wife needed something I had. Everybody thinks it's odd or ironic that I was able to give her a kidney, but I believe it was meant to be"

It is something Melissa Keeble has tried to put into words as a way to thank her husband. Last year, she entered her husband in Redbook magazine's "Husband of the Year contest." She recently discovered he was first runner-up. The feature will appear in the February, 2000 issue of the magazine, dedicated to Valentines Day.

"Who knew that almost six years ago when he took the vows of 'in sickness and in health,' he would be willing to give me a vital organ," she wrote in her essay. "Although there is no way to ever show him how much his gift has meant to me, I thought this might be a good start."

Melissa was told on her 30th birthday that she would either need a kidney transplant or require dialysis treatments.

"When Chip told me he wanted to give me his kidney, I was in shock," she said. "I thought it was sweet, but I really felt that it would not happen because there was no way we would be a match."

A week later, preliminary tests showed the couple matched. At Vanderbilt there have been only 36 living, unrelated kidney transplants.

Without her husband's kidney, she may have waited up to 3 years before a match was found.

Melissa, who has been a diabetic since she was 7 years old, always was aware of the complications patients with diabetes could experience. Although she had always used insulin to keep her disease under control, it had been manageable.

"I had never been sick," she said. "I had never considered that I would need dialysis or a transplant. I am so thankful for Chip. I never had to go on dialysis or wait for a kidney.

"We are really blessed. I truly believe we were meant to be together and this was something that Chip could do for me and it means so much to both of us."

Keeble recently celebrated the first anniversary of her transplant, on Nov. 3.

"We both enjoy life so much more," Melissa Keeble said. "I don't worry about the little things. I enjoy the time I have. Who knows, I may have my kidney another week, a year or even 20 years. I'll keep it as long as God wants me to and until then I have to enjoy the life I have, the life we have together."

Vanderbilt has performed nearly 2,500 kidney transplants since 1962. It is one of the largest programs in the United States as well as the oldest program offered by the Vanderbilt Transplant Center.