Kidney donation means Clark County friends ‘are sisters connected for life’

Friend kept a secret for months that she was the match who would help Julie Nourse live a better life.

Friends of 25 years, Julie Nourse and Jennifer Tuttle share their faith in God and love for their families, but neither would have guessed they would share Tuttle’s kidneys.

Nourse was diagnosed with kidney disease in her early twenties in 1992. She remained steady at stage three kidney disease until two years ago when her creatinine level rapidly increased and she developed stage 5 kidney failure, requiring a transplant.

“My doctor did everything he could to stop it,” she said. “He allowed me to fight until it wasn’t safe for me to fight anymore. After another kidney biopsy it was firmly decided my kidneys would never be able to recover.”

On April 1, 2024, the first official day of National Donate Life Month, Tuttle gave Nourse the gift of life — a kidney — at the University of Cincinnati Hospital.

“We are sisters now,” Tuttle said. “We both have brothers, but now we are sisters connected for life.”


Nourse, who was raised in Clark County, said while she was diagnosed with kidney disease after college, there were signs long before.

“I never passed a high school or junior high physical because I always had protein in my urine,” Nourse said. “When I was in college my freshman year, my professors reported me, saying that I looked sick and needed to be checked out.”

Nourse’s mother traveled to Anderson University to take her daughter to see a doctor. She was experiencing fatigue, weakness and pain in her stomach. After an alarming medical test, Nourse was referred to specialists for further evaluation.

“That doctor was so discouraging to me and told me to drop out of college, and that I would never have children,” Nourse said. “I was crushed, (but) I trust in God … so, that is what I did. I went back to college. I married my high school sweetheart. My husband knew that we would never have children, and yet he married me anyways.”

Nourse met her husband Trent, a physician’s assistant, at Maiden Lane Church of God in elementary school. They began dating in high school.

“We have been married 30 years this October,” Nourse said. “I love him immensely and am extremely thankful for him. He has held me in the middle of the nights when crying or in pain.”

Nourse eventually began seeing a new nephrologist in Springfield, Dr. Pius Kurian. She said Kurian “never gave up on me.”

“Dr. Kurian performed my first kidney biopsy in 1997, and at that point it was confirmed that I indeed had IgA nephropathy,” she said. “He reached out to Ohio State to try to get help for me. They said I wasn’t bad enough for their experimental treatment at that time, so Dr. Kurian did everything that they were doing for their patients, but he did it here in town just with me.”

IgA nephropathy happens when a germ-fighting protein called immunoglobulin A (IgA) builds up in the kidneys, causing a type of inflammation that makes it difficult for the kidneys to filter waste from the blood.

Since then, Nourse has been on blood pressure medicine, folic acid and more to maintain kidney function along with a gluten-free diet, numerous 24-hour urine tests, blood tests, a low-protein diet, extra hydration and continual monitoring.

“(Dr. Kurian) knew I believed in God and he said ‘You say you believe in God; if so, go ahead and have a baby and I will follow you through this,’” Nourse said. “My husband and I were so delighted.”

The Nourses now have a son and a daughter.

“Dr. Kurian and my husband were on the same page that at that point … I needed to take care of my kidneys and raise the two precious miracle children that God blessed us with,” Nourse said.

After her kidney disease advanced to the point where her kidneys were damaged beyond repair, she began dialysis.

Dialysis sessions remove blood from the body through a needle to then be filtered to remove harmful substances. “Clean” blood is then returned into the patient’s body.

“Dialysis is not fun,” Nourse said. “But every morning after dialysis I felt so much better. I went from a person who struggled to walk and was so full of toxins to having a better quality of life.”

Ten hours of Nourse’s day was dedicated to dialysis, not including doctor visits, nurse visits, team visits and the multiple tests, shots, bloodwork and more.

“Dialysis is a very hard thing to do. It is hard on your body, but without it I would have been dead,” Nourse said. “That’s the facts. Dialysis was my lifeline.”

Nourse said she is blessed that the only thing “wrong” with her was her kidney failure, but she knew a transplant could cure her. Since November 2022, the hope and plan were for a kidney transplant.


When news of Nourse’s need for a kidney spread, Tuttle and her family began praying for her.

“We were praying for Julie, and we were praying for the potential kidney donor at church,” Tuttle said. “I truly felt God speaking to me and telling me ‘You are the donor. You are the match.’ It was an overwhelming feeling.”

Tuttle listened to the feeling and began the process of becoming a donor through UC Health. She completed the questionnaire in December of 2022 and followed with the swab test to match blood type and tissue. She was not surprised to learn she was a match.

“I was not surprised at all. I was surprised about how long the process took,” she said. “I had no doubt I would be accepted for testing. Again, I had no doubt I was to be the donor.”

Tuttle was officially told she was a direct match for Nourse in July 2023. On October 6, the transplant team officially approved Tuttle for donation. Once she received approval from her own health team, Tuttle moved forward but did not tell Nourse she was the match until the surgery was scheduled.

Tuttle said she can’t imagine life without Nourse.

“I knew I had something that could drastically improve her life. I read that wait time for a kidney from a living donor was shorter, and she wouldn’t need dialysis if it was a living donor,” she said.

Tuttle’s family was supportive of her decision to be a kidney donor. Her husband Brian also applied to the registry. Jennifer and Brian became grandparents in 2023.

“It is amazing. I want Julie to have the same. I want her to be able to attend her son’s wedding this summer and not be limited by dialysis,” Tuttle said. “I want her to be there for her daughter when she graduates med school.”

The number of kidney disease patients waiting for a deceased donor kidney continues to increase in the U.S., which results in a waiting time of several years for most patients. However the waiting time can virtually be eliminated by a living donor kidney transplant, according to UC Health.

A thorough medical evaluation of the potential donor is performed to minimize risks. After donation, a healthy person can lead a normal life with one kidney. The life expectancy and general health of the living donor are not significantly affected by donating a kidney, and the risk of the donor developing kidney failure is no different than if they had never donated a kidney.


Nourse said she knew Tuttle had registered to be a donor — many others had as well — but she never expected Tuttle or anyone else to be her match.

“Night after night of seeing your body struggle and decline with all the extreme yucky symptoms that come with kidney failure, you start to feel hopeless,” Nourse said. “But we trusted God and decided to praise the Lord no matter the outcome. Suffering for Christians is real.”

Tuttle asked to remain anonymous as a donor for Nourse until the final testing was completed and she was approved for surgery.

It was a Sunday morning in January at church when Tuttle approached her dear friend. She took her in her arms for an embrace and simply whispered, “I am the one.”

Trent Nourse captured the emotional moment on video.

“When Jennifer shared the words ‘I am the one,’ at a regular hug at church, I broke down,” Nourse said. “My eyes popped out of my head, immediate hot flash, a rush of my chains being broken, then gasping and heartbreak that Jennifer would have to take the wound for me to be healed. I almost fainted.”

Nourse equated the intimate moment to having a death sentence and getting a pardon.

“The joy, the elation,” she said. “A feeling you can’t imagine unless you are so deep in the valley.”

Renewed Life

Now in recovery and learning to live as a donor recipient, Nourse said she named her new kidney Wildcat Ressie.

“Jennifer is from Kentucky and loves the Wildcats, and ‘Ressie’ is for new life, Resurrection Sunday,” Nourse said. “Jennifer’s family and my family met at the altar Easter Sunday, and we were anointed and prayed over by our pastors and our church family. Then less than 24 hours later, Ressie was inside of my body cleaning out the terrible toxins that have been kicking my butt for years. My labs quickly became normal range for my creatinine; absolute miracle.”

While it has not been easy, Nourse said she is learning a different way of life with food, drink, outdoors, germs, masks and more. Her body has improved physically.

She lost 10 pounds of fluid within the first few days. She said her head was finally clear, her body took shape again and the “puffiness” diminished. Her eyes are clear and the heaviness in her knees and ankles is gone along with the extreme exhaustion.

“Oh, and I pee. I pee a lot,” she said with joy. “Ressie loves to pee.”

Nourse takes up to 70 pills per day — most are anti-rejection medications with side effects she is working through.

Nourse said there is so much she wants to say about this journey, but ultimately it is not about her.

“The most important thing I have experienced is being so near the cross,” she said. “I felt like I was at the foot of the cross.”

On April 1 when Nourse heard Tuttle was in surgery and the procedure was in progress, it hit her hard.

“(To) envision Jennifer in there being physically cut and wounded for no other reason but for my healing; I had done nothing and could do absolutely nothing for her and yet she gave her perfect unblemished kidney to me to save me,” she said. “I got upset, began crying, overcome by the immense pain she was taking for me. Then I saw the cross, and I couldn’t look at the wounds Jesus took for me and he died for me.”

Nourse said she couldn’t see Tuttle in the operating room, but it became clear to her what love looks like.

“The kind that you get nothing in return, but you give all you have and put your very life on the line for another,” she said.

Nourse, who enjoys serving others, said it was difficult, but she had to accept the gift from Tuttle.

“I had to humble myself and admit my dire need for her help,” she said. “I had no other way to have freedom but through a donor giving part of their body to save me. You can’t even imagine the agony of accepting this treasure, and yet there was no other way but for Jennifer to go through that surgery to save me.”

She said she never expected her life to be perfect.

“This life is temporary,” Nourse said. “I am grateful for more days to love, serve and point people to Jesus, and that is what I intend to do.”

Post-surgery, Tuttle is recovering well. She returned to work as Springfield Twp. administrator two weeks after the procedure but does have some temporary physical limitations and requirements.

“Donating a kidney is a significant gift. I would like to encourage people to research and learn more about kidney donation, especially becoming a living kidney donor,” Tuttle said. “Those on the kidney transplant waitlist can wait several years. Consider giving someone a second chance at life.”

To learn more about becoming an organ donor through UC Health visit:

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