NORFOLK, VA. (WAVY) — Bodybuilder and personal trainer April Sethmann was on top of the world until 2016. That’s when surgeons found the unexpected following a hysterectomy. Because of a rare form of cancer, doctors removed her right kidney and half of her left kidney.

Even with 50% of one kidney, Sethmann continued to give clients 100%.

(Photo courtesy/April Sethmann)

“I still am currently in personal training and still teaching classes,” said Sethmann who offers strength and balance training in a mind-over-matter approach to fitness.

But, in December of 2020, Sethmann decided to go public on Facebook by letting family and friends know she desperately needed a live kidney donation.

Just after News Year’s, 10 On Your Side answered the call, and the people of Hampton Roads responded.
Other on-air appeals would follow.

“For the first interview we had ten to twelve people to reach out by and then by the time we did the second interview and the third. By the time all three interviews were done, I think it was a total of about 38 to 40 people who had either filled out the questionnaire form or reached out to the transplant center to try and find out if they were a match,” said Sethmann.

Not one candidate was a good match. Then, just after Thanksgiving, Sethmann issued a fourth and final appeal. With or without a donor, doctors would remove her partial kidney and place her on dialysis.

Across town in Chesapeake, typically, 27-year-old Ashley Thoms, who is a buyer for a major automotive company in Hampton Roads, doesn’t watch local television news. But on November 30, she was visiting a friend who was watching the evening news on WAVY-TV 10.

“I was actually hanging out with a friend and she has it on the TV; we were sitting down chatting and the story came on and it caught my eye. I knew that I was actually healthy enough, able, and willing to go through the process. So I filled out the questionnaire after the story had ended and a few days after that, I got the call to come to do the blood work to see if I was a match,” said Thoms.

(WAVY Photo: Regina Mobley)

April and Ashley were the perfect match. They met for the first time in December and in February the partial left kidney was removed. Time was not on Sethmann’s side.

“When we did our interview, we thought there were five cancers; when the kidney came out, there were eleven,” said Sethmann.

By early April, Sethmann thought she would die on dialysis.

(Photo courtesy – April Sethmann)

“Two weeks before the transplant, I was rushed to the hospital. I thought that I was having a heart attack… the dialysis had put so much stress on my heart that I had fallen over [while] outside,” said Sethmann.

At Sentara Norfolk General, the transplant would take place on the morning of April 26.

“She[Ashley] walked up and says ‘Are you ready?’ with a smile on her face and we walked in together. Ashley had even lost ten pounds to ensure she was in the best health possible for the surgery.

Two days later, Sethmann offered her own prognosis from her hospital bed.

“As soon as they put the kidney in, I was peeing so much, and I peed, and I peed and I peed…I feel like I could run a marathon,” said Sethann in a post to her Facebook friends.

Fully recovered, April and Ashley have a message to 10 On Your Side viewers who were willing, but not able to help, and those still waiting for a kidney.

(WAVY photo: Andrew Robinson)

“I hope this encourages younger people to get out there to see if they can donate,” said Thoms.

“If I hadn’t met you Regina, Ten On Your Side basically got me a kidney. With your interview, I feel that we got Ashley as my donor, I believe that we raised awareness for many people out there,” said Sethman

93 thousand people in America are on the kidney transplant list. If you are interested in learning whether you qualify as a donor, Sentara has an online questionnaire that will help determine whether you qualify for the program.