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Arkansas man celebrates 46 years since life-saving kidney transplant

Dale Shaffer got a second chance at life 46 years ago after he received a kidney transplant, which usually lasts between 7-20 years.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — October 6 might seem like just an ordinary day to some, but for Dale and Velma Shaffer, it marks a special anniversary. No, it's not the day they said, "I do," but if you ask the couple of 58 years, the day is just as meaningful.

"The transplant was done October the sixth, 1976," recalled Dale Shaffer. "Forty-six years ago, today."

However, the journey to that fateful day in 1976 was not without bumps along the way.

"I lost my first kidney in 1962 due to kidney failure and they removed it in 1963," Dale said. Nearly a decade later, he would have problems again.

"Went to work one morning in Bucklin, Kansas at the barber shop and the vision in my left eye got real blurry," he said.

Dale made it home and explained what he was experiencing to Velma. She then helped drive him two hours to Wichita, Kansas for a surprise that would change their lives forever.

"I didn't realize our life was just about to change in the biggest way that it could," Velma said.

Dale once again went into kidney failure. He began dialysis treatment in 1975 and continued to do so for the next 18 months. 

"The first time I went in and he was doing dialysis, he thought I left," Velma said. "I had to go out and regroup a little bit because I realized that I was going to have to be the one helping him with this procedure."

For three nights a week, Velma and Dale conducted at-home dialysis procedures. Dale recalls having to contact their local utility departments to let them know in case of a power outage, they had a priority.

As the calendar flipped to 1976, doctors continued to search for a possible donor match. Then in the fall of that year, Dale's doctors found two potential matches.

"I had two brothers and both of them actually could have gave me a kidney," he said. "But Carl, who is seven years older than myself, he was closer and a better match than my brother Elvis."

Before the operation, Carl told Dale he knew he would be the one to help his brother.

"Carl said one night he had a visitor in a dream who touched his side and said 'you'll be the one to give your brother a kidney,'" he recalled.

Once the operation was complete, Dale's body showed signs of rejection. Doctors told Velma to prepare for more at-home dialysis if things did not improve by the third day after the surgery. At that time, they did all they could do.

Yet, Dale didn't give up hope. While laying in bed two nights after the surgery, he says he felt a change, all thanks to the power of prayer.

"I relied on God, in Christ, Jesus. He's the one who helped us through this whole ordeal."

Incredibly, Dale's condition improved. His body accepted his brother's transplanted kidney and now, 46 years later, Dale celebrates another year baffling doctors.

On average, most kidney transplants last anywhere between seven and 20 years. Dale now approaches five decades and has a lot to be thankful for every October 6.

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