Teacher donates kidney to wounded soldier

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Terry Roberts
Terry Roberts

Terry Roberts, a teacher at Presentation Academy, donated one of her kidneys to a man she’s never met.

That man — Daniel Ruckel of Lexington, Ky. — served as an E-4 specialist in the United States Army for 12 years before being injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

He suffered a brain injury as a result of the IED, and the medication that helped to heal his brain led to kidney failure.

Roberts, in a recent interview, said she was watching the local news as she prepared for her day when she heard Ruckel’s story last winter.

Right there, in that moment, Roberts said she felt an indescribable feeling surge through her body.

“I had an actual physical reaction, an electrical reaction,” she said in the recent interview at Presentation. “I felt it was something I needed to do.”

Roberts talked to her husband, Ken, and their three children, Jake, 16, Jill, 14, and Jenna, 9.

By the next day, Roberts said, she had made up her mind and called the University of Kentucky’s kidney transplant office.

“I felt like God touched me and asked me to do this. How do you say no?” she said.

Roberts, who teaches freshman English, had the surgery to remove one of her kidneys last July 18.

“I had the surgery on a Thursday and went home that Sunday,” she said. “By the next Wednesday, my kids and I went to a movie.”

She even felt well enough to return to school on time for the start of the fall semester. Roberts noted that she was back a week before classes started because she also serves as manager of the campus store and as the school’s librarian.

Roberts said she has had no noticeable lifestyle changes. She has to visit her doctor six months after surgery, then once a year for five years.

She has shied away from sharing her story because she calls it a very “private thing.” For months, no one at the school even knew about her decision.

“I didn’t tell many people. I didn’t do it for any purpose except for him,” she said of Ruckel.

She decided to share her experience with her diocesan newspaper because of a story she read in an October edition of The Record which detailed a father’s quest to find a kidney for his son.

“I think about what I went through and it’s so minimal compared to someone looking at death,” she said.

Roberts hopes her story can encourage those who are considering an organ donation.

“I think it’s one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s such a privilege. I was able to bring hope to this person and his family. When you think of it that way, you think ‘How can you not?’ ”

Roberts encourages those who are considering such a gift to educate themselves.

“You can register online to become an organ donor. Sign the back of your driver’s license and make your family aware of your wishes,” she said.

You don’t have to donate an organ to help out either, Roberts noted. She said blood donors are always needed.

“Such a small inconvenience can change someone’s life,” she said.

Barbara Flanders Wine, principal of Presentation, said Roberts is a perfect example of a person placing their life in God’s hands.

“How unselfish to donate a kidney to someone you don’t even know,” Wine said. “She was drawn to do something. She has such a strong faith and followed a message from God. It’s a great example for our girls. There may be times in your life when you have to put your faith in God’s hands,” she said.

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