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University of Missouri

A Valentine Friendship

Alumni share a priceless gift on Valentine’s Day.

Anne Fitzsimmons and Bob and Susan Winkelmann.

Anne Fitzsimmons, left, and Bob and Susan Winkelmann had a special Valentine’s Day 2012. Photo by Rachel Coward.

MU Health Care celebrated its Kidney Transplant Program’s 40th anniversary in February 2012. With more than 1,000 transplants performed, the program has a kidney rejection rate of only 10 percent, which is 5 percent lower than the national average.

Almost 40 years after the first MU kidney transplant — on Valentine’s Day 2012 — Anne Fitzsimmons, BA ’81, MD ’86, and Bob Winkelmann, BA ’78, BSN ’84, lay on gurneys in University Hospital.

The Fitzsimmons and Winkelmann families have been friends since the late 1980s, when Anne and Susan Winkelmann, BA ’80, MD ’84, Bob’s wife, took their residencies at University Hospital together. Since 1992, the families have lived a block apart in Columbia. They see one another so often that one of their jokes is that a path has been worn between their homes. They’ve taken family vacations and spent holidays together for decades.

When Bob learned in 2010 he needed a kidney transplant, he tried to find a match from family members and used the national donor waiting list. No luck. Anne tested as a match in spring 2011.

Though the Winkelmanns had misgivings about putting Anne through the process, Anne was determined to be the donor. She hastened Bob’s decision by arguing that he needed surgery soon if he expected to attend his eldest daughter’s wedding.

On May 19, 2012, a healthy and proud father walked Molly down the aisle of a Columbia church.

“I cry every other day about it,” Susan says.

Read more in Mizzou Weekly.