Two women who barely knew each other, living on opposite ends of the country, shared a past in abortion industry work. They never expected the sisterhood that would give them a future.
Shelley was a nurse at Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2012. She kept the job a secret from her husband Donald, knowing he would disapprove of her working at an abortion clinic. In all fairness, Shelley did not know that it was an abortion clinic until patients started packing into the waiting room on her first day of work. She took a bewildered look around and succumbed to the financial pressure of contributing to her family’s needs and hardened her resolve to bring home a paycheck.
Donald followed her to work one day, got his bearings on the situation, and gently but firmly told her she did not have to keep the job. By that time, Shelley was defensive and justified her position by the stability it brought to the needs of their growing children.
But then their bright, handsome 20-year-old son died in his sleep, suddenly and with no conclusive answers as to why and how.
It was devastating, and Shelley’s hardened conscience cracked. She knew she could not keep aiding in taking the lives of children after losing her own. She reached out to And Then There Were None on her next morning back at the clinic and walked out the doors forever.
Caroline, a nurse in Ohio, worked comfortably for Planned Parenthood for nearly 15 years. During her tenure with the abortion giant, she earned her Master of Science in Nursing and worked at a referral clinic as a Nurse Practitioner, specializing in birth control methods and sexually transmitted infections.
While employed at Planned Parenthood, Caroline and her husband Scott became parents themselves. The disconnect between the mission of her organization and her employer’s lack of understanding for Caroline’s wishes as a mother roused questions about Planned Parenthood’s true nature. By setting abortion quotas and putting personal obstacles in Caroline’s way of motherhood, the scales began to fall. A newfound curiosity in Jesus Christ set Caroline on a trajectory to eventually resign from Planned Parenthood, the exact month that Shelley began her work at Delta Clinic. She connected with ATTWN for healing resources after hearing Abby Johnson speak at a local pregnancy center banquet.
Though connected through ATTWN, Shelley and Caroline didn’t meet until a Phase 3 healing retreat in August of 2021. Shelley, after speaking about her experiences at her previous employment for years, had had a recent decline in her health. She was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at age 14 and knew that a kidney transplant would be somewhere in her future, but lymphatic cancer rapidly sped up the urgency. Required injections for cancer treatment led to kidney failure, and dialysis was a daily part of her routine. Donald, knowing how much Shelley needed her ATTWN tribe, accompanied Shelley on retreat where the women became acquainted. Caroline, a quiet observer, saw the number of willing donors among the ATTWN staff and clients and thought surely Shelley would have her kidney transplant match soon, especially after the entire group prayed together for a match for Shelley. Motherhood and a history of work in the abortion industry seemed to be the only thing they had in common.
Shelley had all but given up hope after twenty years of waiting on the transplant list with no match.
But the following month, ATTWN held a Quitters Ball gala event in Dallas, Texas. By a series of coincidences that only God could have orchestrated, the two women and their spouses were seated together. Shelley’s friend, former coworker, and fellow Quitter noticed from another table that Shelley was having an allergic reaction to almond residue in her salad. She swiftly brought it to Caroline’s attention so that Donald could run to the hotel’s vending kiosk for allergy medication, and while Caroline assessed Shelley, they began talking.
Both skilled nurses, they knew not to panic and to keep Shelley talking. Caroline mentioned organ donation and asked Shelley about the process and the requirements for a match. It was then that she found out they shared the same blood type, and that no match had been found. As Donald intervened with allergy medication, Caroline went back to her seat with a seed planted in her mind about organ transplant testing.
Over the next month, she communicated with Donald about the steps she was taking to find out if her kidney was a match for Shelley. Donald, for fear that Shelley’s hopes would be disappointed, kept the testing a secret from her.
Rather than excitement, Shelley was overwhelmed by something completely different—it was peace.
It took eight more months of pre-operative testing and medical work-up to prepare for the transplant, while Scott, Caroline, Donald, and Shelley became family. Traveling from Ohio to Louisiana for testing, Caroline prepared her kidney to be received by Shelley with some of Shelley’s favorite foods and some Cajun cooking. Donald and Scott exchanged corny dad jokes and recipes. Caroline treated her kidney like a surrogate parent, nurturing it and verbally willing it to Shelley in case of emergency or accidental death. As far as she was concerned, the kidney no longer belonged to her but was already part of Shelley. Caroline agonized over how long it was taking but clung to the words of Jeremiah 17:8 for complete trust in God’s timing: “They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought, it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” After enough bloodwork to fill a blood bank, psychological evaluations, 24-hour urine specimen collection, and travel while juggling family, kids, school, and her job, the kidney was ready.
The days preceding the operation were filled with family visits and gatherings, a graduation party, and a turkey neck boil. Caroline experienced Acme Oyster and Café du Monde for the first time. It was all fun and family; Shelley’s parents embraced Caroline like a daughter, sharing stories about Shelley’s spitfire personality growing up. Shelley’s mother said that Caroline’s donation restored her faith in humanity. Their ATTWN tribe sisters called in to pray together.
On June 13, 2022, the transplant took place at Oschner Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. While Caroline was in surgery for the kidney removal, Shelley was being prepared for the reception. Shelley recalls waking up halfway through the procedure and muttering something about how long they were taking. She laughed while remembering the scowl on the doctor’s face and the sharp command to the anesthesiologist to put her back under.
The transplant was successful, but several weeks of observation were required at an inpatient hospital to make sure Shelley’s body did not reject the new organ. Shelley was released earlier than expected, surely due to all that good Cajun cooking her kidney had been primed with before the transplant.
The kidney has a name. Shelley calls it Sharoline. Now, seven months after the transplant, Shelley notes certain changes and peculiarities in her new life with Sharoline.
Before Sharoline, Shelley enjoyed a regular nightcap of whiskey and soda. Caroline doesn’t care much for alcohol, and especially not whiskey. With Sharoline, Shelley has lost her taste for alcohol. Shelley doesn’t mind the change, however, and appreciates her “clean Christian kidney.” She also has a newfound taste for vegetables and craves her mother’s concoction of cabbage, potatoes, radishes, and carrots. She’s even nicer to Donald…sometimes, she says. Joking aside, Shelley prays daily for Caroline in the words from Proverbs 22:9: “The generous themselves shall be blessed.” Her new lease on life has given her ample time to enjoy her new twin grandbabies, who will be moving closer to their grandmother very soon.
For Caroline, there was a brief period of overwhelming sadness after her recovery, which is said to be quite common after organ donations. However, recognizing it on her regular prayer walks with a friend gave a name to her sadness and it passed as quickly as it came. She is embarking on a new journey with her credentials as a FertilityCare Practitioner in the Creighton model of natural (true) family planning. Her convictions for whole-life care did not stop with leaving the abortion industry but continued with abandoning the provision of birth control prescriptions and contraceptive implantations in favor of authentic women’s healthcare. She is taking new clients and hopes to establish her own LLC practice.
Shelley and Caroline share an uncommon bond that is profoundly pro-life in every conceivable way. Quitting the abortion industry was just the beginning, and only God could take that tragedy and create something entirely new and beautiful.
Donald and Scott continue to be devoted husbands and fathers and regularly share cringeworthy dad jokes.