Family unites in life-renewing effort

Pictured is Avery Vogt with his aunt, Mary Vogt-Shields. (Sean McGowan photo)

Avery Vogt was on his way to work when he received the call. It was like any other day, he thought.

“I’d like to admit you to the hospital for dehydration,” the voice on the other end relayed.

His doctor had called in the springtime to follow up on a recent appointment. Still, the 22-year-old Waterloo man thought nothing of it, assuming he’d be out soon.

“But before I knew it, a couple of days turned into 13 days,” he said. 

Avery discovered both of his kidneys had failed and was put on dialysis in March. The doctors said the kidney failure came from IgA nephropathy, in which the kidneys’ ability to filter blood is compromised.

“My family was more scared and upset than I was,” he explained. “I don’t react strongly to anything. I just kind of take everything in strides.”

Though he remained mostly unshaken throughout the experience, the physical complications dialysis and kidney failure put on his body were starting to take a toll.

“I couldn’t sleep very well,” he recalled while slumping in his chair at the Republic-Times newspaper office.

Next to him, his aunt, Mary Vogt-Shields, listened to him recap his worst struggles with a sense of relief. Shields had helped bring the story that began with pain and uncertainty to an encouraging resolution.

“You couldn’t sleep because you were having to do the dialysis at night,” she added. 

Not long after Avery’s diagnosis, Shields went in for testing to see if she could donate one of her kidneys to her nephew. She hadn’t thought ahead to what the results might bring.

“When I found out I was his match, my emotions were, ‘I can’t believe I’m his match. Oh my God. What now? I don’t know if I can do it,’” she said. I mean, I really had to take the time to process everything before I told him.

“Because I didn’t want him to know unless I was really going to go through with it.”

Of course, once she had some time to think it through, the decision became clear.

“Over time, a calming came over me. I knew it was going to be OK. This was meant to be,” she said.

Shields and Avery went under the knife at the beginning of January. The surgery yielded no complications, and Avery is ready to be back on his feet.

“It’s definitely a big relief. I feel so much better physically and emotionally,” he said. “I sleep a lot better now.”

Inspired by the encouraging news, JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill owner Denise Vogt, Avery’s aunt, decided to spread the word on her business’ Facebook page.

“Jeff and I are so proud of his sweet sister, Mary, for giving Avery a chance to fulfill his dreams! And boy has he got dreams! Y’all better watch out!” she said.

Following the transplant, Avery said he and Shields have grown much closer in their relationship.

“I think we’ve definitely gotten closer over the past year … She was the first one that wanted to get tested when she heard the news,” he said.

Shields is encouraged to see Avery’s ambitions come to life. He plans to graduate from Saint Louis University in December with a degree in political science. He said he may go on to law school after that.

“It feels wonderful. I wake up every morning with a smile because he’s got a bright future,” she said. “A lot of people say what a remarkable gift I have given Avery. However, the truth is I was given the gift of opportunity — an opportunity to do something more with my life, to truly make a difference in his.”

The two plan to participate in the National Kidney Foundation Walk at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis March 4. For more information on the walk, go to

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