POWELL — Health issues are nothing new to Olentangy Liberty High School teacher Scott Davis. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was just 6 weeks old, Davis has overcome a litany of obstacles through his years as a result of the disease, most notably a double lung transplant in 1994 when he was 26 years old.
Due to irreparable kidney damage stemming from the long list of medications he was taking following the lung transplant, however, Davis would again find himself in need of a transplant and in search of a hero to rise to the cause. As it turned out, that hero just happened to also be teaching in the Olentangy Local School District (OLSD).
Last fall, Davis began the school year by teaching as he normally would, but it was nothing short of a struggle for him.
“I taught the first semester of last school year, but during that time, I genuinely felt terrible every single day,” Davis said. “My doctors weren’t sure how I was doing what I was doing, working and teaching full-time. And I can tell you it was simply sheer will.”
Davis said that by the time winter break was approaching during the 2019-2o school year, he knew he was “at the end of his rope” and would not be able to continue teaching following the break. He was given two options — dialysis for the rest of his life or receiving a transplant — by his doctors, but Davis said the dialysis was never a real option if at all avoidable.
“The problem with dialysis for me, and I think it’s similar for most people, was that it was three times a week, and around four or five hours per session,” Davis said. “So, you can’t hold a full-time job that way, you can’t live the life you want when you have a 10-year-old daughter as I do. I’m a pretty active guy, or at least that’s the lifestyle that I prefer … I have all of this other stuff that I’m involved in. (Dialysis) was fine for the short term, but it wasn’t what I wanted long term.”
As a kidney transplant became Davis’ only true option, his wife, Julia, turned to Facebook to update all who were following along about her husband’s need for a living donor.
One of those people who had been following was Christine Snivley, a history teacher at Olentangy Orange Middle School. Snivley, whose husband also teaches at Olentangy Liberty High School, said she looked forward to reading Julia’s weekly posts to learn more about Davis’ condition, along with getting occasional updates from her husband.
As the tone of Julia’s posts progressed to a call for a donor, a thought began to take shape in Snivley. Finding out that her blood type matched that of Davis served only to grow that thought.
“I started thinking about this every day,” Snivley said. “I would think about Scott and what their family was going through, and that I could potentially be a match. I kind of felt like if this is on my mind all the time, there’s probably a reason for that.”
From there, Snivley began going through the preliminary stages, including paperwork and the general testing to ensure Snivley was, in fact, a blood and tissue match. Snivley said she was told by doctors that the two were actually a “perfect match,” which she said was “unbelievable” given that Davis’ previous lung transplant made him a more difficult candidate with which to match.
“I never thought about the surgery itself, I only ever thought about the act,” Snivley said of her decision process to get tested as a potential match. “They so desperately needed this. If I have two that are healthy, and I can live perfectly fine with just one, then why wouldn’t I do it? I never felt apprehension or nervousness; I felt pretty at piece with it.”
Davis said that prior to doing much research on kidney transplant and living donors, he was initially very apprehensive about receiving a kidney from a living donor “because under no circumstances would I ever allow somebody to put themselves at risk for me.”
Further research and the understanding that the procedure is extremely safe for the donor relieved much of that concern, however, and Davis said having a living donor was actually an important aspect of the transplant given his extensive health background.
Snivley said she and her husband were initially cautious about how much they revealed to Davis regarding her testing as a potential match. She said she didn’t want to get Davis’ hopes up only for her not to ultimately be a match. Once Snivley was told that she was, indeed a match, and surgery was scheduled, she said she couldn’t wait to be the first to inform Davis of the official news.
“We were very excited to be the ones to tell him when the surgery would be,” Snivley said. “Once we found out, we couldn’t keep that news to ourselves because we knew how badly they needed it.”
The transplant surgery took place on June 12 at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and was, by all accounts, a success. Davis said “night and day” doesn’t do justice to just how much better he feels following the transplant.
“One cannot properly extend the appropriate amount of gratitude for something like this,” Davis said of his appreciation for Snivley’s selflessness. “It’s impossible, but I keep trying. My family, my friends, and my extended family, everyone is just blown away … The gratitude is immeasurable.”
Davis went on to say that “the world is falling in love with Christine” for her act of kindness, and although he knows she didn’t do it for attention, he loves just how much is coming her way.
While finding a donor was a cause for celebration in and itself, Snivley said the specialness of the transplant from within the district was not lost on her.
Snivley, who grew up in the school district and graduated from Olentangy High School, said, “We’re a very large school district … For as large as we are, it still has that community feel, and I feel like there are so many teachers who would do a lot of great things for other teachers if they needed it. This is a special circumstance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else in the district had a similar story as well.”
During last week’s meeting of the OLSD Board of Education, President Mindy Patrick said the act by Snivley demonstrated a “true act of compassion and kindness in our ‘One Olentangy’ family.”
“Her gift to the Davis family is the most generous gift a human can give another human,” Patrick went on to say.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.