Two Military Hearts, One Kidney

Carleene describes her husband Steve as “army retired extraordinaire”. They are college sweethearts. Their love story began while Steve was following in his father’s steps at West Point. By 1972, soon after his graduation, Carleene and Steve were married and three days later Steve was off to Ranger school. 

For almost 30 years they lived the army life; they had four kids and now have eight grandchildren. Some of their fondest memories are from their Fort Bragg days in the late 70s and early 80s when Steve served in the elite 82nd Airborne Division as part as the 1st Battalion 504th Infantry Regiment (1-504 PIR). Now, their son is currently stationed at Fort Bragg. He followed in Steve’s footsteps and is Airborne infantry as well. Soon, he will command of the 501st Infantry Regiment (1-501st PIR) in Alaska. The Myers are a three-generation Army family.

Steve went through his entire Army career, retiring as a Colonel in 2000, thinking he was perfectly healthy. It wasn’t until Carleene and Steve’s daughter was found to have cysts in her kidney that he was tested and diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a genetic kidney disease. He and his family were unfamiliar with PKD but recalled their experience when Steve’s father had undergone a kidney transplant back in the 80s. It was scary but they monitored it together for 7 years until his kidney function dropped low enough that he had to go on the transplant waiting list. 

Carleene had been beside Steve since the beginning of this journey. Almost three years ago, they attended a transplant orientation at UNC to learn about what it meant to be on the kidney transplant waiting list. It was overwhelming for them to hear the wait for Steve to get a kidney from a deceased donor could take 5-6 years and that he’d eventually have to start dialysis. That day in the hospital cafeteria, Carleene had a sudden moment of faith she says she “felt in her heart” that she would be a match and could be Steve’s kidney donor. Some medical tests proved her heart’s intuition was right and Carleene was able to give her sweetheart the kidney he needed. 

About her experience as a donor, Carleene says, “to be able to donate a kidney to a family member is the ultimate joy and adrenaline.” After they both recovered from surgery Steve says they felt so "fired up" to feel so healthy and full of life that they went from retirement to working full time for their ministry. “I thought the kidney was a gift, it was the gift of life. And I thought it was for me, and it was, but it also was one more opportunity to give back”. 

Carleene and Steve now have their own non-profit, The Military Heart. They work with military families through fellowship and teachings from the Bible. Their mission is to build strong military families to help them through the unique sacrifices and challenges that the military brings. They have embraced their Calling and so happy to share their love and donation story. They hope their story will help educate people about PKD and living donation.