Giving the gift of life

Powell businesswoman donating organ to client

Posted 4/2/24

The last thing Sasha Barrus wanted to do was be in the newspaper. She would’ve much rather simply donate her kidney to her friend, Crystal Frankenberry, and return to work at her hair salon …

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Giving the gift of life

Powell businesswoman donating organ to client


The last thing Sasha Barrus wanted to do was be in the newspaper. She would’ve much rather simply donate her kidney to her friend, Crystal Frankenberry, and return to work at her hair salon without notoriety. The only motivation she had to share her story was to hopefully be an example to others both in need of an organ and those who might be willing to make a very personal donation.

“I pray that God is using me to help share this journey and to help inspire other people to want to do the same,” she said.

Frankenberry is in kidney failure and needs a healthy kidney as soon as possible. The two friends head to Denver for the operations on April 10.

“She’s saving my life,” Frankenberry said, at which point Barrus’ eyes started to well up. Her emotions were infectious, but tamped down. They both have about a week to chew on their nerves before they go under. However, Barrus has been considering giving the gift of life for quite some time.

Frankenberry wasn’t the first person to have received Barrus’ offer. Powell’s Ray Branstetter was the first on her list.

“I asked when I came down if they could cross match me for both [patients]. If I couldn't [donate] for one, I could do it for the other,” Barrus said.

After a substantial amount of testing, Barrus was a match for both, but her kidney wasn’t large enough to help Branstetter.

Frankenberry, who is 58, had already been to UCHealth, a network of nationally-recognized hospitals, clinic locations and health care providers throughout Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The Transplant Center at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus has been recognized in the field since their team performed the first-ever liver transplant in 1963. They have now performed over 6,000 transplants.

Her two sons, Jake and Zeke, were both good matches. They decided Zeke, who lives in Oregon, was the best match. The mother and son team then traveled to the transplant center in Denver after extensive testing only to have specialists decide they shouldn’t do the surgery.

Barrus has done Frankenberry’s hair for years — she owns Shear Perfection at 102 N. Bent St. — and was well aware of her situation. One of the best parts of looking good are the intimate discussions between a stylist and client. When Barrus found out the transplant from Frankenberry’s son fell through she immediately made the offer.

“I truly feel grateful and blessed to be able to give to help someone in need,” Barrus said.

Every day, 12 patients die on the kidney transplant waitlist, according to the Foundation. Patients wait an average of three to five years for a kidney transplant, but in some states the wait can be as long as 10 years. Branstetter is still waiting for a donation.

Frankenberry was first diagnosed with diminished kidney function in 2019. She has been actively on the waitlist for the past two years. Finding a living donor didn’t remove her name from the waitlist, but finding Barrus when she did was extremely lucky. Frankenberry has been in kidney failure since February.

“Anytime I’m talking to people about Sasha, they all comment on how giving she is,” Frankenberry said. “Heroic is the word for her.”

While Frankenberry is normally gregarious, she can’t seem to find her words when together with Barrus this close to surgery.

“I don’t have any words. How do I thank someone for a gift like this?” she said while pausing to regain her composure.

Barrus doesn’t like people throwing around the word heroic, but there are very few words for this level of gifts.

“I don't really feel like it's a sacrifice,” she said. “I don't really know why anybody wouldn’t do this. She needed help.”

Frankenberry is facing excessive expenses and there are several ways to help.

Venmo: @Crystal-Frankenberry

Go Fund Me:

Local donations: Crystal c/o Patty and Gary Mayfield, 1015 Lodgepole Ct., Powell, WY, 82435.

Ray Branstetter is still waiting for a donor. Register to begin the process here:


Kidney donors can live a normal life

Both laparoscopic and robotic methods are used for the operations. According to the National Kidney Foundation, laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is a minimally invasive surgery that uses a videoscope and instruments to remove the kidney on long, narrow rods that are placed into the abdomen through small incisions. Robotic surgery affords the option to make lower incisions than those used for open kidney transplant surgery with lower complication risk. The minimized incision in a robot-assisted kidney transplant lowers risk of complications such as hernia and infection and speeds recovery. As long as a donor is evaluated thoroughly and cleared for donation, they can lead a normal life after the surgery.

When the kidney is removed, the single normal kidney will increase in size to compensate for the loss of the donated kidney. Physical exercise is encouraged in donors, however, it’s important for someone with only one kidney to be careful and protect it from injury.

Some doctors think it is best to avoid contact sports like football, boxing, hockey, soccer, martial arts or wrestling. Wearing protective gear such as padded vests under clothing can help protect the kidney from injury during sports. This can help lessen the risk, but it won’t take away the risk.

Kidney donation does not change life expectancy and does not appear to increase the risk of kidney failure, the Foundation reports. In general, most people with a single normal kidney have few or no problems; however, some studies suggest that living donors may have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure and there are some dietary restrictions, like excessive amounts of protein and phosphate (like in a can of Coke), and medical recommendations like avoiding ibuprofen.

Donors are asked to be tested once a year for kidney function.