Cindy Sellers gave one of her kidneys to her ex-husband and lost him to cancer the next year. Taking long walks on the beach were her way of trying to deal with the grief.
Small things became more significant to her, stirring her creativity and feeding her passion to tell people about the need for living donations.
Over time, seashells and other items became handcrafted art and opened a path to help her promote awareness.
“My life has been changed forever due to this humbling experience,” Sellers said. “If my story can help anybody — fantastic.”
Shug’s by the Inlet is the business that allows her to make and sell items, ranging from earrings to oyster-shell chandeliers, and draw attention to Shug’s in Memory of Jerry Sellers, a 501C3 nonprofit that raises awareness for living organ donations and helps guide potential donors through the process.
Sellers, a registered nurse, said the work she does as director of the nonprofit helps her to maintain her nursing license.
She and Jerry Sellers were married 10 years when they divorced, but they continued to live together for about 10 more years before he died. She said they were not only best friends; they were raising two sons that they both loved very much.
Many people knew Jerry as Coach Sellers through his work at Myrtle Beach High School and Socastee High School.
In 2010, Jerry, whom Cindy said always had a “selfless love,” had diabetes and was in renal failure. One night when they were cooking out, Cindy said, “I wish there was something I could do.”
Jerry laughed and said, “You could give me a kidney.”
“Absolutely, I will,” she answered.
Recently, as she talked about that night, she said, “It hit me like a brick — what the heck had I been thinking?”
Although she answered quickly and meant it, she had some fears. “Naturally, we as human beings are afraid,” she said. “We’re not angelic while we’re walking this place called earth.”
Jerry and Cindy happened to be a perfect match. “He got a perfect kidney,” she said, “but less than a year later, my sons and I lost him to cancer.”
Their son, Colin Sellers, 21, is currently in Santee Cooper’s Lineman Program at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Zachary Sellers, 19, is also going to HGTC and plans to become a nurse anesthetist.
When you give a part of yourself to help someone live, it changes you mentally, physically and spiritually, Cindy Sellers said.
“I would go through it all again because I love my sons that much, and I love what Jerry was to me,” she said. “Jerry was the first person to walk by and touch my life in a positive manner. Everything about me that is good, I attribute to Jerry Sellers.”
The numbers of people waiting on transplants vary depending on the source, but basically the number waiting for kidney transplants in America is more than 100,000, and about 18 die every day.
Roger Lackey of Myrtle Beach has been on a waiting list for almost three years and has to have dialysis three days per week. After Benjamin Gonzales of Myrtle Beach saw Sellers and Roger’s wife, Kay, on television with Amanda Kinseth and Cecil Chandler of Carolina & Co., he called Sellers and offered to donate a kidney to Roger.
Sellers is constantly looking for assistance for the nonprofit and found some with a local car dealer who donated a car and the gas for the trip to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. After about two months of testing, with some of it done at MUSC, Gonzales was found not to be a candidate for kidney donation.
Even though Gonzales could not donate, he is still an angel, Kay Lackey said, and so is every other person who donates or tries to donate to save someone else’s life. “I was there. I saw him go through everything. God bless him for doing it,” she said.
Roger doesn’t have family that can donate a kidney to him, but a nephew on Kay’s side of the family, Kyle Blain of Blacksburg, is now preparing to go through the testing. “He said he wanted to do it to try to help,” Lackey said.
Lackey said there is a lot that people don’t know about living organ donation. “I’ve learned so much,” she said.
She is hoping Roger will rise to the top of the list or that Blain or someone else can donate.
“It would give my husband his life back,” she said. “I just want my husband back, and a kidney would do that. It would make his life so much better.”
Sellers works not only to educate the public about living donations, but also encourages people to do all they can to keep their bodies healthy. Understanding that sometimes donating is possible, and sometimes it is not, she remains passionate about living organ donations — about giving life and living to see it.
“People don’t realize that giving life is huge,” she said.