Gertrena Hoxter was washing her car one summer day in 1971 when a boy stopped to chat. He asked her to come to a carnival. She declined until her mother convinced her otherwise. “You’re just going to the carnival,” her mother said. “You’re not going to marry him.”

Cupid, however, had other ideas. Six months after that first date, they were wed. Since then, the Delaware natives have had their share of “in sickness and in health” moments. “Usually, if one of us gets sick, the other one takes care of them,” said Timothy Hoxter.

Stephanie Gilibert, M.D.

That took on a new meaning in 2011. Timothy, a diabetic, had been struggling with congestive heart failure. He began retaining fluid. Doctors at ChristianaCare determined that his kidneys weren’t functioning properly — he would need a transplant. Meanwhile, he started dialysis.

During the multidisciplinary transplant evaluation at ChristianaCare, the couple learned that a kidney from a living donor was his best option. His wife immediately underwent testing.

“People are often surprised to learn that a spouse-to-spouse living donation is quite common,” said Stephanie Gilibert, M.D., medical director of ChristianaCare’s Kidney Transplant Program.

While family members are a natural choice, they’re not always a match. Due to genetics or lifestyle choices, they may have chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, Dr. Gilibert said. “Fortunately, Gertrena Hoxter was an excellent candidate.”

“People are often surprised to learn that a spouse-to-spouse living donation is quite common.”

Stephanie Gilibert, M.D.

With a living donor, the recipient doesn’t experience the stress of a lengthy wait for a kidney and possibly years of dialysis. A living donor transplant generally shortens the wait to less than a year, she said.

In March 2011, the surgical team removed Gertrena’s kidney and surgically implanted it into her husband, where it has continued to function well for the past nine years.

Adherence to the medical regimen is “truly what makes a kidney last,” said Dr. Gilibert.

Gertrena, who has no medical conditions, follows the doctor’s advice. For instance, she does not take ibuprofen. The overuse of this common drug can lead to kidney disease.

Her husband also follows the rules. “I make sure I take my medicine on time — I don’t skip any — and the transplant is working well for us,” said Timothy, whose congestive heart failure also has improved.

The couple are looking forward to their golden wedding anniversary and more healthy and happy years together. “We want to have our family, friends and church family join in the celebration of our 50th,” Gertrena said.

Dr. Gilibert noted that they have another milestone to celebrate: Their 10-year “kidney-versary.”

For information on the living donor kidney transplants, call 302-623-3866 or visit