BELLEVUE – In November 2015, Theresa Trelsted saw a Facebook post that changed her life and the life of a fellow graduate of St. Louise School in Bellevue.
The post from Jim Budig lightheartedly asked if anyone had a kidney lying around he could use. After years of living with polycystic kidney disease, Budig was experiencing kidney failure.
Though they were only one year apart at both St. Louise and Eastside Catholic High School, Trelsted (then Theresa Heily, St. Louise class of 1980) and Budig (class of 1981) didn’t know each other well during their school years. But Trelsted’s sister Erin was in Budig’s class at St. Louise, and that connection is how she saw Budig’s post.
Jim Budig, St. Louise class of 1981, and Theresa (Heily) Trelsted, class of 1980, in their St. Louise School yearbook photos. Photos: Courtesy St. Louise School
Trelsted, along with three of her sisters and several other St. Louise alums, contacted the University of Washington Medical Center to see if they were a match to donate. When Trelsted got her results, she sent Budig a Facebook message on Oct. 28, 2016: “Hey Jim, give me a call re: your kidney.”
On the phone later that day, Trelsted gave him the news: She was a perfect match, and she was willing and able to donate one of her kidneys.
On Dec. 10, 2016, three days before the surgery, Trelsted and Budig flew to Seattle (from their homes in Portland and Los Angeles, respectively) to get to know each other better. That evening they met with 20 of their old St. Louise and Eastside Catholic classmates, who came from around the U.S. to support them.
After the transplant surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center on Dec. 13, Budig said, his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. The doctors had told him to expect two to three months of recovery in the Seattle area. But the transplant went so well that the kidney started working immediately. Both Budig and Trelsted spent only four nights at the hospital. Just nine days after surgery, Jim was released to return to Los Angeles, in time to celebrate Christmas at home with his wife and son. Budig’s doctor told him it was the fastest recovery he’d seen in his career.
Since returning to their normal lives after surgery, Trelsted and Budig have kept in touch and become good friends. They’ve had many conversations about gratitude. Receiving the gift of a working kidney has been a “life-changer,” Budig said.
On June 8, St. Louise School honored Trelsted as this year’s Distinguished Graduate, “for her selfless and life-saving act of donating a kidney to Jim,” the school reported.