More to the story | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

More to the story


WORLD Radio - More to the story

The family featured in Ordinary Angels shares their other medical challenges and how God provided

Ashley Schmitt at the Ordinary Angels premiere on Feb. 19 Associated Press/Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: And I’m Lindsay Mast. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: organ donation.

The 2024 movie Ordinary Angels focused on the true story of a three-year-old’s emergency liver transplant during a snowstorm.

Movies, of course, focus on a story’s drama, but may forego the details— like the recovery process after the transplant.

REICHARD: WORLD Associate Correspondent Noah Burgdorf has that story.

ED SCHMITT: When we got back home from Ashley's liver transplant, we got a cardboard box in the mail that was 932 pages long. It was a bill. And the bill was right over $900,000.

NOAH BURGDORF: Ed Schmitt has seen so many medical bills over the last 30 years that he doesn’t even really think about it anymore…

ED SCHMITT: It really worried me early on about the money, but you get to a certain point that you don't care anymore…

Schmitt lives in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1992 he lost his wife to a rare autoimmune disease. But that was just the tip of the iceberg…

ED SCHMITT: Both of my daughters were born with a liver deficiency and both needing liver transplants…

In February, Lionsgate released the film Ordinary Angels, which focuses on his younger daughter Michelle needing an emergency transplant in the middle of a snowstorm, but three years earlier, Ed’s elder daughter, Ashley was the one in need of a liver transplant.

ASHLEY SCHMITT: I had a liver transplant when I was three years old, October 1st of 1991.

Getting an organ transplant is often just the beginning of a very long journey. There are frequent check-ups, complications from medication, and a high susceptibility to illness.

ASHLEY SCHMITT: We did get sicker than other kids more often. And you know, what one kid might take a few days to get over would take us a week or so to get over. Or we might have to go in a hospital for a few days up to a week.

Ed says that the burden of losing his wife and caring for his children took a toll on his faith and stopped going to church altogether.

ED SCHMITT: I did lose my religion. For not just a short amount of time, for a long time. I wouldn't go because I couldn’t understand what I’d done.

Ed says that he started going back to church after his daughters shared their testimonies at a youth group they’d been attending.

ED SCHMITT: So I found it. But I mean, there are still days, I can't understand all this.

Organ transplants are a lot to care for. There are a lot of costly medications intended to keep the body from rejecting the transplanted organ. And those pills can be really hard on the kidneys.

ASHLEY SCHMITT: So in 2011, I got sick, my kidneys were failing. You feel terrible all the time, you know, you're throwing up, not eating well. And then about a month and a half later, Michele got sick and her kidneys started shutting down.

Both sisters ended up needing a second transplant. Ashley received a kidney from a deceased donor, but Michelle’s kidney came from someone they knew very well.

CRYSTAL OLAFSON: They say there's no reason why we have two kidneys except to donate them. [Laughter]

When Crystal heard her friend needed a kidney, she knew she wanted to help.

OLAFSON: I had to do a lot of scans. I also had to talk to my family and bring them in. We had to talk to a psychologist to make sure, you know, this is what you want to do.

The medical team also wanted to make sure Crystal wasn’t doing it for the wrong reasons, but eventually, she was given the green light.

OLAFSON: It wasn't much of anything. I just didn't think much of it at the time. I just knew it was gonna happen.

Ed and Ashley say Crystal was a real God send.

ASHLEY SCHMITT: We've known her since elementary school. So it was just a perfect gift from God, I think that it worked out perfectly that way.

Michelle passed in 2021 from a stomach aneurysm but Crystal’s kidney gave her almost another decade of life. Today Ed, Ashley, and Crystal enjoy telling their story in honor of Michelle. They’ve been on the receiving end of so much, so they now advocate for the many others like them who are on the waiting list—often unseen.

OLAFSON: There's over 65,000 people at the Super Bowl, but over 100,000 People are waiting for an organ transplant. And so when you look around at the Super Bowl, and you see that many people to know that there's way more people out there who need a transplant—that’s a really good visual.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Noah Burgdorf in Louisville, Kentucky.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...