Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton native donates kidney to coworker participating in national transplant games

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Even after they graduate from school and start their own life, sons and daughters still have the ability to make their parents proud sometimes.

Nobody knows this better than Chesterton couple Thad and Janice Jacobs whose admiration for their son Ted Jacobs has soared off the charts.

Ted Jacobs, a 1987 graduate of Chesterton High School who now lives in Greenfield, Ind. with his wife Shari and their two daughters, decided nine months ago to undergo an operation giving one of his kidneys to save the life of co-worker Kathy Dowling, who was the guidance director at Greenfield-Central High School where he teaches.

“(Ted’s) been a blessing and always been very helpful. He’s willing to help everybody and anybody and never expects anything in return or any praise. That’s just the way he is,” said Thad Jacobs.

Having a long history with health issues, Dowling has had 79 surgeries since 2004 and had a previous kidney transplant that ultimately failed due to malabsorption that had resulted.

Dowling was three months on dialysis before she received her second kidney transplant from Ted Jacobs and is regaining her strength to participate in the Transplant Games of America at the end of this month, July 28-31.

“I feel so blessed that I now get to lead a quality life that I could not have done without (Ted’s) kidney,” said Dowling.

A handful of Greenfield-Central HS staff decided to be tested for compatibility the first time and Ted Jacobs received word saying he was a positive match. To be considered an ideal donor, one must have the same blood type as the recipient and be in general good health to which Ted Jacobs quips “I don’t know how that happened.” Extensive physical testing is required to ensure the kidney is not diseased and functions well before surgery can be performed.

Ted Jacobs said the tests took time and surprisingly the surgery for him was actually the quickest and most painless step. “I wouldn’t have any trouble having to go through it again,” he said with confidence.

At first, Ted’s parents were apprehensive about what kind of an impact the transplant would have on his health, although the risks of any threatening side effects are said to be very low.

“Janice and I were both very concerned and had questions for (Ted) to ask through the surgeon. He got reassurance that everything would be fine and ultimately decided that he would do it,” Thad Jacobs said.

“It’s a big sacrifice for sure,” added Janice Jacobs.

Both parents are excited about the fact their son’s contribution will be recognized at the Transplant Games which will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich. this year. Teams from around the nation have the chance to compete in a mix of events.

A former swim coach, Dowling will be entering the 50-meter freestyle, the 50-meter breaststroke and the 50-meter backstroke, which she has spent several weeks training for which has helped her gain back her strength.

Dowling said she is lucky to participate this year because participants for the games are required to be at least nine months past the surgery. She will make the cutoff just in time, with just four days to spare.

“Everyone is going to be clapping when I get out so they can go on to the next event because I will be the oldest person on the Indiana team,” she says with a laugh.

All joking aside, Dowling is swimming for a bigger purpose – to thank her donors and to give encouragement and hope to those in need of organ donations. Her swim is also in memory of those close to her who unfortunately lost their lives due to infirmities and were unable to receive the transplants they needed.

“There are just a lot of people that I want to recognize when I swim for who helped inspire me,” she said.

The competition is a fundraiser highlighting the importance of organ and tissue donation. Dowling said she is paying all her costs to enter the games on her own and all the sponsored money will go to the organization.

Ted Jacobs plays down his decision to give Dowling his kidney, insisting that she is the real hero.

“Kathy is worth it. She’s just an amazing human being,” he said.

The two share interests in both language and arts. Dowling said she taught English prior to Ted Jacobs and that is how they got to know each other.

Ted Jacobs said he has taught at Greenfield-Central HS for 11 years and is now the drama director for the school.

He has had an interest from a very young age to teach, his parents said, and they credit his teachers at Chesterton who have helped shape him to be the caring individual he is today.

“Ever since the third grade, all he said he ever wanted to be was a teacher,” said Janice Jacobs.

In his days at CHS, Ted Jacobs was involved with National Honor Society and was selected as the outstanding musical student at the high school. More recently, his outreach has involved Habitat For Humanity in Indianapolis and he worked to help those in Haiti after the earthquake struck in 2010.

Dowling said she hopes there is some fact to the rumor that recipients inherit traits from the donors.

“I wish I had inherited some of Ted’s drama talent and his singing voice and other things now that I got his kidney because he is a very gifted individual,” she said.

For more information on how to make a donation to the cause, visit


Posted 7/6/2012