A life-saving act of vulnerability with Carlie Oakley

There is always a hidden cost when you choose isolation over vulnerability: Relationships that don’t deepen; opportunities that pass by; wounds that aren’t healed. For Carlie Oakley, her decision to be radically vulnerable ultimately saved her life and changed her perspective.

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There is always a hidden cost when you choose isolation over vulnerability: Relationships that don’t deepen; opportunities that pass by; wounds that aren’t healed.

For Carlie Oakley, her decision to be radically vulnerable ultimately saved her life and changed her perspective.

Listen in as Carlie shares how her busy life of “and’s” in a 2-career household came to a forced halt as she faced life-threatening medical conditions and bravely chose to open up in vulnerability.

Tiffany Sauder: I'm a small town kid, born with a big city spirit. 17 years ago I founded a marketing consultancy, and ever since my husband JR and I have been building our careers and our family on the exact same timeline, that means four kids, three businesses, two careers, all building towards one life we love. I choose to play a lot of awesome roles in life.

When I discovered I could purposefully embrace all of these ands in my. It unlocked my world, and I want that for you too. I'm Tiffany Sauder, and this is Scared, Confident. So who is Carlie Oakley? She's this like blonde Sprite of a human and she just has this enormous energy about her, but practically she plays the role of the Chief Brand Officer at Eight 11 Group, which is.

Roll up like the holding company for different companies that are in the staffing business. And what I think is so special about Carlie is she was in the first five employees of this company and now they have thousands of employees all over the country. And so she just has been on a really. Cool journey of growth and her husband also has got this massive career and so I've been drawn to them as a really dynamic two career family that really has big expectations that life is going to be big and have a lot of really cool things in it.

And so it was really cool to be able. Have this conversation with her to finally get her on the podcast. So this conversation with Carlie took an unexpected turn, well, not unexpected, but took a turn really towards vulnerability. And if there was one gift that I could hand my children, it would be the ability to create the habit to be vulnerable.

I like did a little bit of research. Okay. I looked at the definition of like, what is vulnerability? Cuz I know what it feels like, but how do I explain it to someone? And it says it's the ability to be exposed. To the unknown, like an uncertain environment. And as we get to be adults, it's like our desire for control, our desire to be strategic, our desire to show up in the best possible way, whatever it is, we lose the habit.

We lose the ability to be vulnerable. And it creates these great distances in us as people. I think there's just enormous consequence in our ability to grow, our ability to learn, our ability to become the next version of ourselves when we're not able to be vulnerable. And so I just think it's such an important concept to practice, to understand, to set our minds to, And I love that this conversation with car.

Brought that forward, and I hope you enjoyed this conversation on Radical Vulnerability with Carlie Oakley.

Carlie Oakley. Yeah. I am so pleased to have you on Scared Confident. Um, you have been. A woman I've seen lead from afar and over the last, I don't know, year or two, I feel like our lives have become closer Yeah. As moms and as professional women. And so I'm excited to just, um, let my listeners get a chance to know you a little bit and explore a little bit together some of what life has presented to you in the last few years.

So Okay. Thanks. Thank you for having me, for joining me. You're welcome. Um, well let's start by just orienting, um, to kind of like, who is Carlie Oakley? Giving people a little background on your family, what that looks like, and then what your job looks like, what you do in that.

Carlie Oakley: Okay. So I am a mom of two young kids.

Um, Maron is going to be 13 on Friday. Mm-hmm. , so first teenager moment, which is weird, and G is 11. and my husband and I have been married for 21 years. He's the CEO of a company and then also a partner in car washes. And I am the chief Brand officer of Eight 11 Group, which is the parent company of a family of companies, Brooksource resource and calculated

Tiffany Sauder: hire.

So what I love, I think part of why our, like my spirit. Leaned into yours and said, Can we be friends? Is you live also this life of a two-career home, and you know, Brent, your husband has had big jobs and big dreams and big career, and you also have had big job, big dreams, big career, and then alongside building your career as your family.

Was grown at the exact same time. It's also the hand that life dealt us. I, I know, I don't know if we chose it or it chose us to probably feel similarly to that. Right. Um, and so, um, I think those paths are really parallel. I'd, I'd love to maybe pause there for a minute and say, you know, when you look at the craziness that is your life, what are the anchors for you?

Pulling it all off. People from a distance can say like, You've got it all. What has to be in place for you to feel like, Hey look,

Carlie Oakley: this is sustainable for me? Yeah, that's a great point. I think it's been a work in progress throughout the years. Um, I have worked. 4 8 11 group. Almost the entire time I've been married.

There was a year interim where I had a different job before I got hired there, but I think it's been a constant work in progress based on where we were in the moment of time. So when your kids are tiny babies, they need something totally different than they they need now. And so for us, it is a village of humans that can help and.

Obviously people say it takes a village to raise a child, but truly I could not do it without a village. Mm-hmm. . Um, for us, I think it's being super open, communicating on what our needs are on our job, and those pivot. Frequently, as I'm sure you can relate to, we have a nanny that helps us with our house and with our kids.

Mm-hmm. . Um, I recently hired somebody to help with meals. Mm-hmm. . So she a chef. Um, and it's funny because if you would've asked me 20 years ago, I would've never thought that I had a chef helping me. Mm-hmm. once a week, but, It allows me the ability to walk outta my house knowing I can feed my kids a good dinner at night and not have that stress a couple times a week.

Great with DoorDash every other night, but at least a couple nights a week. I know that they have food and it allows me to have good food. Um, and it allows me to not have that part of the stress. So, um, there's a whole

Tiffany Sauder: spectrum of care. Yeah. When you're, when you're two career family with kids, there is no choice but to figure out who you're gonna pay to help you and what the model is that works for your family.

Yep. It's not if it's, it's gonna absolutely happen. Um, and so, You guys have an

Carlie Oakley: live in nanny? We do currently. She's actually moving out this week, but she had, that was never, So maybe give

Tiffany Sauder: just a little bit about that cuz I, It's always very interesting for me to learn just about different ways that people do it and so, and I think sharing that with Yeah.

People who are trying to figure out, Cause there's pros and cons

Carlie Oakley: to everything there are and I would've never. Thought that would've been our plan. Um, she had been our nanny for a year prior to having a very traumatic personal situation happen. Unfortunately, she lost her husband in a tragic accident a month before she was getting a kidney transplant.

I don't even know if that's something I've ever shared with you. And so at the time, she felt not deserving of the kidney and how, what's the point of going through this? And we said, move in with. We'll help ease this burden as you help ease ours. And so at the time we thought that that was just a small blimp in the radar.

Three years later, she actually is moving out on Friday. Okay. But. That moment in time that we never planned for actually brought so much good to our family too. So I don't know that there's good, bad, and different that you can actually define. I think that's for everybody to choose what works best for them.

For me, my stress is my kids and making sure that they can always say yes to the things they wanna say yes to. And if Brit and I lived our work lives the way that we do, they wouldn't be able to say yes to all of that. The help of Melanie.

Tiffany Sauder: Totally. I think that's exactly right. Getting our kids actually like physically to places when they can't Yeah.

Drive and stuff. But I do, I think the other piece, having time to actually be in relationship with them, not just administering their lives. And when you look at things like cooking for them or doing their laundry, and again, yeah, I'm a, I'm a farm kid. I never imagined that these would be things that I.

Have the choice to pay for, right? But it is a trade off between the hours that you can put into your job, the earning potential that comes from that, and being able to be present for. The moments that matter, and I think each family has to pick what their moments that matter are. Like you said, it changes as your kids grow, what would you say your kids most need from you?

One of the things I've observed is my kids have gotten older. I feel like when they're younger, it's like kind of what I need from them. Mm-hmm. , like I like you either like bathing them or you don't like, I don't really like it. I would be, I was fine outsourcing it. There's like things when they're little you kind of decide what you like to do for them.

Yeah. But as they get older, like my daughter's also 13. And I have an 11 year old. It is about listening. Well, for what do you think? What do they need from you? What do they need to feel? Centered before they go to school, What do they need to feel before they go to a new social event so they feel confident?

Have you noticed kind of what your kids need from you and how that's different?

Carlie Oakley: Yeah. It's funny that, yes, like cuz I actually just thought about this a couple weeks ago when the kids were in elementary or even in preschool. I was like, Okay, I can't be that room mom. I can't be the person sitting down and reading a book to them at 10 o'clock on a Tuesday.

So I will volunteer to do every field trip. Mm-hmm. . And I quickly learned that that. A horrible thing that I had told them I was going to do. One, I didn't enjoy it. That wasn't my space with them. And two, they didn't need that from me, nor will they ever even remember that most likely other than the pictures that I will show them to prove that I was there

Um, but now we ask them. So going into the new year, when we do goals, when Brent and I do goals together, we also ask them, What do you need from us? Or What do you want from us? What's really important? In a tough work week, what's really important, and my son always says to have family dinners, so it's important to him that two nights a week we sit down and have a family dinner.

So we're very purposeful about that. For my daughter. She's in that age, and I'm sure you can agree that what she needs from us, I don't, I don't think she knows on a daily basis, right? So I try to just be available to talk to her when she needs that, that extra guidance. I think the really awesome thing about having help at home too, or nanny, is my goal for Melanie is.

You are that extra person for them. That's not the disciplinarian. So for me, that was my grandmother. Mm-hmm. , I could go tell her anything, never felt judged. Um, and I want that for my kids to have an outlet outside of Brent and I, because our, their grandparents aren't here. Neither one of our parents are here in town.

Mm-hmm. . So it's really helpful for them to have her. Is a center on and, and flank. Bri and I, the kids early on used to, you know, I'd walk in from work and they would be like, Melanie, I mean mom. Mm-hmm. . And she would say, Does that upset you? And I'm like, No. That's thrilling to me that they have somebody that, that loves them, like a mom that they would accidentally call us something.

Mm-hmm. different. So for me, I, I love and cherish that time for them that they have with her. I look at it as an enormous benefit. Not a, you know, not something that's negative. Yeah.

Tiffany Sauder: Not stepping on your toes. Yeah. Yeah. We have had St of in-home care where they were with us 5, 7, 8 years, and the way that.

That we talked about. Ours was Mrs. Garcia as part of our family. Her family was an extension of ours. I think does change the way that your kids also interact with them. They're not, They are here to, to be a part of our family. They're not here to serve us. Right. You know, they're here to like help us function at a really high level so that we can step all into our talents and gifts.

And we love them back. Great. And the way that, and I think it does create a different relationship for the kids with, you know, this person who's in kind of to keep 'em safe, to keep the wheels running, but also to love them. And when I think we start by. Loving them first. I think were easier to love as a family for all of our quirks and craziness.

I, So, um, okay. Switching gears a little bit. If I were to call four people in your company and say, give me three adjectives about Carlie, what do you think they would say about who you are?

Carlie Oakley: Um, I think they would say energetic, motivator and leader.

Tiffany Sauder: So, uh, I wanted those as an anchor point for listeners cuz I, I would say the ones I would pick for you, definitely energetic.

Um, this is probably not an adjective, but just sort of like on top of it. . Yes. Um, and I would say there's a level of like relentlessness about you. Like, I don't know, you don't ever look tired. Maybe you're really great at the like makeup sitch or something, but you never look like this is like relentless showing up.

I mean, what the company's done when you've been there. Like you have had to have broken through your own ceiling so many times because it's just what it, it takes, you know? Um, so I would say relentless. So I think those are anchoring to orient people to who you are. Cuz I wanna bridge actually into.

Things that you've experienced personally here in the last couple of years? Because not only is it hard, but I, I think it probably flew in the face of who you were used to being. Yep. Um, and so maybe exploring that a little bit. Yep. So you wanna Absolutely. Kind of transition to that. Yeah. And share what's, what you've been going through.

Carlie Oakley: Yes, absolutely. So I had a kidney transplant in November. Um, 11 22 21, uh, was the day of my kidney transplant, and the recovery of that was worse than I imagined. I think. To look back on the road leading there, I trusted that my doctors would tell me when I needed a kidney. Um, I was diagnosed with Epstein Bar virus when I was 21, which is a form of mono that happens to cause lesions in your kidney.

And I was only. Born with one kidney. And so once that caused the lesions, my kidney function went down drastically. So everybody can live with one kidney. Mm-hmm. . But you need that kidney to function at a high level. And so starting when I was 21, mine did not, um, function at that high of level. They. We un my doctors were unsure if I'd be able to have kids successfully.

Took us a while to get pregnant with Marin, but we did, She took down my function quite a bit. Um, and then so when

Tiffany Sauder: you were pregnant, it's especially stressful on your body, is that cuz you've got extra fluid and

Carlie Oakley: blood pressure is a part of it. Okay. Yeah. So it skyrocketed when I was. Pregnant with, um, with Marin, and I was on bedrest for the last five weeks and then before I had her, so 10 weeks prior to when I was supposed to have her, and I had her five weeks early.

Wow. Okay. So, um, and then with G it took down my function even more. Um, I was at about 22%. After I had him, I was really sick and I actually ended up, um, working with a homeopathic doctor out of Park City, Utah, who got my function up to about 27%. So I was living at 27% for about 11 years. Wow. And they just told me when I got to 20%, they would have to put me on a donor list.

So I did blood work every six weeks and most people didn't even know I was, was doing that. And I just always told the doctor, You let me know when I need to be concerned, but I'm not gonna be concerned and tell you, tell me otherwise.

Tiffany Sauder: In, in, in a body who's fun, whose kidney is functioning at 27%, did you feel anything different?

Like, I mean, I guess it was normal for you at that point, but

Carlie Oakley: it was normal. Um, no. And if, if my doctor was sitting here, he would say, , he doesn't know how. Wow. That's a thing. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. And I actually, my doctor that I had had since I was 16 actually retired during Covid. So that was a scary transition to a new doctor from somebody that had known me for that long and followed my chart.

And so he transitioned me. To a new doctor and because of that stint where you couldn't go in just for regular appointments, I had never met my new nephrologist. So fast forward to November of 2020, I go in to meet her for the first time and my old nephrologist is on the screen and they have up all these screens and she's, I walked in and I.

I knew that it was, that it was time. And so I kind of blacked out during all of the numbers that she was sharing with me because her exact words when I walked in were, It's time. So what did you

Tiffany Sauder: feel in that moment? I mean, you said you kind of blacked out, but what were you trying to not feel?

Carlie Oakley: Um, I think it was all of these things that rush through your mind of.

What does this look like? How am I gonna get a kidney? Who's gonna be your donor? Am I now, Can I never travel again? Can I work? What does this mean? Is my body deteriorating ? I, I immediately went to, what is this gonna do to the kids? I think I was super fortunate when I, when I look back, Crazy fortunate that my kids made it to the age that they made it to and they weren't little had that happened when they were two and three.

I think that would've been drastically, you know, a very different situation, but, Given their ages, they could understand it. They didn't, It was still scary. Mm-hmm. , but they could understand it and at least we could communicate with them and they were able to help and somewhat fend for themselves on the back end of, of the recovery, whereas if they were little, mm-hmm.

I don't even. I don't even know how that works. I think the other thing that went through my head, every time that I would walk into the nephrology office, they would always say, Oh, the doctors aren't seeing reps today. Because they always thought it was medical device route by word. Um, because I was one of the youngest patients that's ever been through this, and to everyone there, I looked really healthy and that was abnormal.

So Wow. To sit in that room and then say that it's finally time, it was, you sort

Tiffany Sauder: of felt like you had, you're just I am, I am the outlier and the statistics. Maybe forever.

Carlie Oakley: Maybe. Yeah. This is, maybe I'll never, ever have to have it. Mm-hmm. and even as, as that went on, I kept coming back to appointments and they, they said, We felt like today was gonna be the day you'd be wheeled in a wheelchair and not look like that.

We don't understand how you're functioning. You have the numbers out of an 85 year old bedridden man. What? So after talking to my surgeon about it after the fact, I said, Have you ever seen that before? He said, No, but I think your mindset. Made you what you were. Have you ever had like a down moment or a down week or something where you felt awful?

And I said yes. And actually for the first time ever, um, in 2020, Brent, I both took off the two full weeks that the kids were home for holiday. And I felt so sick the entire time, but I think I had released the stress of work. I think I was just home and present and I, I let my mind go to a place of just complete ease, which made me feel terrible.

Tiffany Sauder: Holy crap, .

Carlie Oakley: That's insane. Isn't that crazy? Yes. So even now, um, I get, we do whips at our company, which, you know, a question, you whip it around the whole table for everybody to answer and. I walked into our leadership retreat in May, which was the first event I had been back to and walked into our calculated higher leadership team meeting, and they were doing a whip that morning and they were like, Perfect timing.

Carlie we're, we're finishing a whip. What's the biggest lie you tell yourself every day? And I said that I feel great, that I feel amazing in the room. Just stopped and stared at me and I'm like, It's okay, but I have. Otherwise I, I probably wouldn't feel great. Wow.

Tiffany Sauder: That's crazy. Charlie, on the days you let yourself feel bad, does it feel like a release or no?

Carlie Oakley: No, it feels like I'm choosing to let myself down. Wow.

Tiffany Sauder: Okay. So you're at the nephrologist and they say it's time. Yeah. So the woman who motivates other people and doesn't have needs now, like needs an organ . Yeah. So share what you

Carlie Oakley: did. So they said, um, we legally have to put you on the national donor list right now because you're at 20%.

However, you can opt out. I said, Why would anyone opt out? Well, people would opt out because you're young, you're healthy. You should be able to survive this surgery, no problem. And you probably can get a donor that's perfectly matched. If you go on the donor list, we will give you a pager today, and there could be a 70 year old woman that dies in a car accident in Arkansas.

And she happens to be your blood type, and we will fly that kidney in immediately, call you on the pager, and you'll have to immediately come down town for the surgery. So you are choosing any organ from the donor list, or you can be an advocate for yourself and choose to try to find one that's a better match.

I said, Okay, well what's the likelihood that I can find one that's a perfect match? We don't know. Depends how many people you're willing to reach out to, to ask. I said, Well, what does that even look like? Where does one start to ask for a kidney? And they were like, Well, we highly recommend that you put a post out on Facebook and tell about your journey and ask people to get tested.

And here's the website they would reach out to. and I was like, Okay. And the benefit of doing that over being on the, you know, the donor list is it'll probably last twice as long as it, it would if you got one that wasn't a perfect match or you got one from a deceased donor that we had to transport to, what would you like to do?

And I had to decide in that moment. Were you by yourself? And I row. Oh my God. Because walking there. Totally. Yeah. You know, and if you don't know, like,

Tiffany Sauder: why was I out with you? I'm like, You're like, cuz I don't know. Yeah, yeah. Cause I do things by myself. This is how

Carlie Oakley: it's, I know. Exactly. Yeah. And so, . I signed the paper not even really thinking through what that meant, but just based on, Okay, okay.

Well if I can double the livelihood of this organ And you're a

marketer, ,

Tiffany Sauder: So I've trade, you know, like I'm a

Carlie Oakley: marketer. Yeah, right. I can do this. Uhhuh . So they hand me all the paperwork, they hand me the link. We recommend that you send it out today. Carlie said that we can start testing people cuz the testing starts as soon as you get people in.

And I'm like, Okay, well how long do I have to find someone? Like what's the trajectory of this? Well the quicker you find somebody, the likelihood of you not being on dialysis is greater because at 20% you start to decline fairly quickly. And I'm like, when would dialysis. And they said at 10%. And I'm like, Okay, so how long will it take to go from 20 to 10?

And they're like, We don't know. It could be a month, it could be a year. So they said, However, your start date starts right here. So one year from today is as long as your testing will be good. So let's say you go through all the testing and we start to get donors through the testing and you don't have somebody until next December.

You have to go through all the testing again. Well, at the time I was like, okay, whatever. If it's me going through multiple rounds of testing mm-hmm. , it is what it is. Until I started going through the testing. Yeah. And it was insane really, the amount of, Yeah. Stress tests, EKGs, lung tests, it was horrible.

So then I thought, okay, so I got through my first round of tests and, um,

Tiffany Sauder: how many hours do you estimate you spent on the tests?

Carlie Oakley: Oh gosh, just curious. Uh, probably three weeks timeframe. What? Yeah. Oh my gosh. It was crazy. Oh my gosh. I was living at IU Methodist. Oh. I felt like everything is in a box. So I'm lumped in as an 85 year old Bedden.

With a high creatinine level. Wow. Not a healthy, vibrant, you know? Mm-hmm. , 44 year old. Mm-hmm. . So I'm doing all these tests. We get to February of 2022. and Brent's like, Okay, you're almost done with tests. You've not sent out anything. Mm-hmm. , and they asked me to send it out in November. Mm-hmm. . I'm like, I can't, This isn't like putting on Facebook that you need a babysitter for a Friday night.

Mm-hmm. like, I'm asking for an organ and I don't even. I don't even put stuff on Facebook. Yeah,

Tiffany Sauder: totally. Yeah. I don't even show when we go to Florida. . Yeah, casually. So to

Carlie Oakley: ask Uhhuh for an or feels not right to me. So I had to, I had to get it right in my, in my mind. So, I sent an email to and I just started typing, you know, people that I felt like were the closest to my journey, The closest to knowing the story, knowing that I even needed an organ, first of all, um, or that I had only one kidney.

Mm-hmm. and started typing and we landed. I landed it exactly 100 people that I sent the email out to, and I just, I shared the journey. For those of you that don't know, but most knew, shared the journey. And now I'm in need of a kidney . So here's the link, , um, you know, no pressure and I will not know who tested at all unless you share that with me.

They, they don't allow you to know anybody going through the test. So I won't know if you signed up or, or you didn't. So you kind of press send and be like, Okay, well I hope one or two send it in. Um, four days later, I'm not sure I can say this without Craig. Um, my, um, my advocate at the hospital called me and she said, What have you done in your life?

And I said, What do you mean? She said, We've never had this kind of outpouring. Oh my lord. Curly . She said We had 78 people in the last four days. Fill out the link. I'm sorry, my word

Tiffany Sauder: What a moment to feel so loved. Yeah. What a moment to feel like. So vulnerable and to know that your tribe is gonna be there for you. Yeah. . Is that what makes you

Carlie Oakley: cry? Uhhuh? ? Yeah. Like how am I surrounded by so many amazing people? They didn't even take more than four days to think about what that meant for their life.

Mm-hmm. to give something to me. Well the

Tiffany Sauder: wait. I think you know, when you serve a community so well, it is really special for you to feel that boomerang back to you so loudly. Thank you. So then you had a match.

Carlie Oakley: Yeah. So that the testing process was crazy and. . What became fun, I think, for everybody is people were kind of making it as like, Ooh, I'm gonna be the one

Mm-hmm. , it's like

Tiffany Sauder: immediately they're gonna win the lottery. Yeah. Immediately

Carlie Oakley: it was a competition, um, between a group of people, which was really funny.

Tiffany Sauder: That also says something about your tribe, . And

Carlie Oakley: so I had a girlfriend call me and they're like, It's so unbelievable. They just, they told me I couldn. Go through the process.

All I did was going into blood work and I'm like, Why? And they said, she goes, They said I was too skinny. . You're like, That's she this moment to eat a cheeseburger, her girlfriend.

Tiffany Sauder: That's hilarious. That's so funny.

Carlie Oakley: And you know, another girlfriend was really adamant about it and she wanted to be the one, and, um, she had had some skin cancer in the past and so she's on the phone arguing with the coordinator.

Well, it just was a mow, like why can't I? But as they explained to her, Any of that, even in the bloodstream, could really be harmful for me. And if I were to get cancer along with this organ, given the fact that my immune system was gonna be so low mm-hmm. , that could be it. Mm-hmm. . So it's really amazing.

That makes you

Tiffany Sauder: start to realize, too, all the vulner, like Yeah. How vulnerable this moment is for your body and for theirs,

Carlie Oakley: you know? Right. Yeah. So we, they narrowed to 20, they narrowed to 10. They narrowed to five, and the testing for these people just became more and more extensive to a point where I'm like, I'm so sorry.

You start to feel like, do

Tiffany Sauder: you have an hourly rate? I need to pay .

Carlie Oakley: Luckily, my insurance covered everything for the potential donors, which was Oh, that's awesome. Awesome. Um, so it got done to five, then it got down to three. And then it got down to two. And this whole time I knew the 10, I knew the five, I knew the three except for one.

And I had said in my email, If you know anyone that's interested in organ donation, feel free to forward too. So I just kept thinking the one was a forward, because I couldn't imagine that any friend wouldn't share with me that they were going through this. So, um, it was a really good friend that I work with.

Was, um, one of the, and we were calling the other one Ghost Donr cause we had no idea who it was. Fast forward and, um, a really good friend that we just became close, truly in the last like two years. Um, but we got really close because our daughters are friends and so she had reached out to me and said, um, Hey, can you get together for happy hour one night next week?

And I'm like, Ugh. It's the week before our national conference. Booked solid. And she's like, I really just need like an hour of your time. And so, you know, like a true person that's trying to fit puzzle pieces together, I'm like, I have from four to five, but you're gonna have to meet me at this exact spot.

Mm-hmm . Um, so we're sitting there talking and I, I initially thought I was going there cuz Marin had done something bad to her girls , by the way. So I was going there for her to tell me something bad. Um, And she wasn't getting there. So I just thought, okay, she just really wanted to get together. 45 minutes into it, she says, um, by the way, I've been meeting desk.

How's all the kidney testing going? And I'm like, Oh my gosh. It's just, you know, when I start telling about all these tests and, um, how they won't, you know, share with me even where anybody else is on the donor phase. And she's like, I totally understand. It's a lot. She's like, I've been going through kidney testing myself, and I'm like, What?

What's wrong with your kidney? And she's like, I'm one of your two. Oh my gosh. Again, . And I am, as you know, never speechless, ever. And I think I sat there and stared at her for what felt like 10 minutes because I had all of this stuff processing through my head. Like, What? How have you, how have you gone through this?

And I didn't know. How have your girls not known? Have your girls not shared with Marin? You've got too much on your plate. I tried to talk a lot of people out of it. Mm-hmm. through, through the whole phase too. Um, this is too much for you. You can't do this. And my doctor said, Will you stop doing that?

That's not your place. And I said, Jenny, I, I, I don't, I don't even know what to say to you, but are, are you sure This is a lot? This is a he. And she was like, I didn't wanna tell you until I knew I was your match, because I didn't want you to get your hopes up. Oh my Lord. And I said, Well now you're one of two.

And she goes, No, I'm not. I'm your donor. She's like, I know it. And they still had their big day of testing where they like mix the potential donor's blood with my blood. And so they still had a full day, each one of them, a full day of testing. And she said, I know that I am though the other friend was saying the exact same thing.

So they both went for their day of testing on the exact same day. And I can normally stay pretty focused. And I sat in my office chair and stared up the window. I, for three hours that morning, I think just thinking, This is crazy. This is, Yeah. And so, um, my, my other friend called me at about 1130. Really upset and they had released him from the process because his father had high blood pressure, and they said, When we're given so many applicants and we can find a perfect donor, we're gonna go with that.

Carlie, Oh, my word. And what I wasn't expecting is to have to console somebody that, Yeah. Wasn't selected and he would never want that. Mm-hmm. for me either. Um, if he listened to this, he'd be like, I can't believe you felt like that. Mm-hmm. , But I did, I felt like, He had given eight months of his life to testing for this and had told his family and had prepared work wise to be out that long.

And in his mind, he was laying in that bed next to me donating an organ and. It was almost like a mental let down. Mm-hmm. , you know, And so that was a really strange time for me cuz I'm like, I'm so sorry and thank you so much. Yeah. And what do you do? What do you say? Is there a gift? There's no gift. You don't send flowers to somebody thinks for trying to give me an organ.

Mm-hmm. , right? There's just, there's no really great words. To say, so

Tiffany Sauder: Jenny is your match. Jenny is my match. And how quickly from when they decided that, did you guys go into surgery? Because that was a pretty orchestrated

Carlie Oakley: thing. That was late August and they give the donor the first option of when you want to schedule the surgery.

And so her and I looked through the calendar. We were very methodical about when we could do it, because the other thing was at the time we had to quarantine for two weeks before we could both go into surgery. So even just thinking about, you know, you're gonna be out for this long for the recovery, but then to think you have to be home for two weeks prior.

Mm-hmm. . And they didn't even really want us being around our family or anything like that because if we were to get it, the surgery was off and given everything with the hospital. Oh, there were only, Yeah, there were only two surgeons that could do it, and I was very adamant that I had a certain surgeon.

There were only certain days where he could even do the surgery. So, um, we selected, um, the 22nd, which happened to be the day that I was told that I needed to have the transplant. So it was exactly what year from the. that, that they told me that. So crazy how the timing of that works out. Um, and I spent those two weeks, I really finished work, um, in my mind when I left the office on that, that Friday and had told my teams and it, it was a scary moment from that standpoint.

You've got it because I don't know when I'm available. You would like to think that your mind will be with it enough that, Hey, if you need something, just text me. I could probably answer it really quick, but I didn't know what I was walking into or how long I would be. Totally not with it. Mm-hmm. . So you're on your own, you're empowered, you've got it.

And they're like, Well, what if I'm like, There's no, what else? You got it? If, if it's, there's a mistake, be agile, pivot, but you've, you've got this. And then I would go home and cry and think, Oh my gosh, a what am I setting them up for? And b, I hope I don't burn them out while mm-hmm. , I'm not available. Um, but c I've gotta do this, you know, for, for me and my family.

So those two weeks prior were spent, um, Writing letters to people, making videos for people. Mm-hmm. , Um, everybody laughed because I had all of these boxes made for nurses. Um, I had cookies made to give to the nurses and the surgeon before surgery. Oh my word. You are crazy. Um, and I walked in to that surgery.

Not nervous at all. I walked in at such a, a peace of mind that it's exactly where I needed to be at that exact moment and that it was going to be the perfect scenario. Mm-hmm. . And I know there's nothing perfect, but in my head I had to say, mm-hmm. , this is gonna go perfect. Mm-hmm. , The other scary thing for me was they had warned, my doctor, warned Brent and I multiple times that when people wake up from this, because they do the big immune flush and you're on so many steroids for your body not to reject the kidney.

He said, I've never had somebody that's not super raging, mad, mean, And oftentimes spouses leave in tears because of how horrible Oh no, the recipient is, Yeah. And the thought of that for me, yeah. Was like, I can't. I can't do that. Mm-hmm. . So for 60 days prior, I wrote the same thing in my journal every single morning that I will wake up grateful, I will wake up happy, I will wake up kind, and I will ask about Jenny first.

And I wrote those exact things every single day for 60 days. Um, and when I woke up from surgery, Brent and Jenny's husband were walking by my room. I could see them and they were walking to Jenny's room. I later found out, but I was like, Brent. He turned and he looked at me and he goes, Did you have surgery?

Tiffany Sauder: Have you been in yet? Oh my word.

Carlie Oakley: He's like, I knew it had been seven hours, but they told me you weren't out. We were going to see Jenny. Oh my word. And then you call my name. And he's like, Are you okay? And I'm like, I'm great. . Oh my word. So he got the nurses. He's like, What ? Oh my on. But I remember all of it and I said, I wanna FaceTime the kids.

Oh my word. And he said, Okay, are you sure you're up for it? And I'm like, Yes. They need to see that I'm okay, that I'm fine. And I remember that three hour timeframe from after surgery until he left that night. And then it gets a little fuzzy. But again, I think I had manifested so much that I was not going to be that stereotypical person waking up from that surgery.

You're showing that this

Tiffany Sauder: relentlessness, Does it make you lean into that even more now, or do you give yourself more grace? How? How has this experience sort of given you? Has it changed your perspective or do you feel like I No, i's just, this is who I am and I was that through this experience and I am still that now.

Carlie Oakley: Yeah, I think during recovery, being told I had to stay home for four months was really hard for me because a lot of people said, Well, you were home during Covid. I'm like, That was different. Everybody was home. But to be told that you have to stay home and friends can't come over and see you and the kids when they come home from school need to stay 10 feet away from you and you can't go to your daughter's theater performance or your son's championship basketball game.

Those are life moments that I knew I was missing. That was really, really hard. Brent says it's probably the biggest blessing that Covid happened because. Covid hadn't happened and I wasn't made to stay home during that time, I probably would've done too much. Mm-hmm. , it got in my head, I think, more than I wish it had.

I, There were definitely days where I'm like, Well, I can't do this. This is, this is horrible. Mm-hmm. . Um, but I also knew that I had to choose my heart. Mm-hmm. and the heart was actually getting through. Mm-hmm. , making sure that this organ stayed sticky in my body and I needed to wake up. High five myself every day.

If you read the High Five Habit, it was one of the books I read in the hospital. And so I would wake up every morning and truly look in the mirror high five myself and be like, Okay, it's a new reset. It's a new reset day and choose your heart today and control what you can control. But I had to look at it like that every single day because the days became really monotonous.

Mm-hmm. and. .

Tiffany Sauder: So what advice do you have? Well, maybe not everybody's going through the exact same sequence. We've all had times where life collapses on us. Mm-hmm. , the expectations that we have are normal armor kind of doesn't work for what life is delivering to the front door. Um, and maybe you're still going through this reflection, but what advice do you have or what sort of sits in your mind as I ask those questions?

Carlie Oakley: That's a really great question, and I think I still do this every day, where I think, Okay, what, what am I going to look at today from a positive standpoint? And I think the positivity has to come at every stage. So, After I was released from the hospital, I still had to go downtown every other day to do blood work, which is an hour from my house.

And you're walking in with, again, a bunch of sick people and it feels like it's unnecessary. But I tried to find something to make all of those experiences worthwhile that just weren't about me. Mm-hmm. . So I found, for instance, I found this amazing pillow contraption that I would put around my incision.

and um, but it had pockets and so I'd stuff everything in it, and so I didn't have to carry a purse when I went down there and I would make it my mission every time to send a link to, you know, somebody that was sitting there. They would be like, What is that thing? Mm-hmm. . So I'd send the link and I'm like, Buy it.

It's amazing. Mm-hmm. or I tried to make things fun in the lab of. Okay, when can I possibly not come down here anymore? And they're like, When your numbers are this, you'll graduate. And when I heard 'em say graduate, I'm like, But nobody's ever brought PO and circumstance and a cap and gown down . So I'm gonna bring it down in my backpack every day until I graduate and then I'm gonna play it.

But the staff loved it. Mm-hmm. . Um, I think just finding something that's not hard in all of those moments to focus on. Is what what got me through. Um, and I think now it is my mission to, to share the story, share the journey, become an advocate for organ donation because I think it was something so foreign to me until.

November of 2020. I didn't even know what that looked like for me. Um, and now, gosh, if everybody would just give it an option or think about what that can mean for somebody else's life, Jenny saved my life. And I think a lot of people have the opportunity to do that for somebody if they're willing to give up six weeks of their life.

So, For instance, at our national conference in two weeks, I'm, um, announcing that we're giving six weeks of paid vacation to any organ donor moving forward. Mm-hmm. . So just to be able to release something like that in our company, um, and make something positive about it and share the story and that it doesn't have to be as awful as everyone painted to me that it was gonna be, it can end in a positive way.

Tiffany Sauder: Mm-hmm. . Um, if somebody is interested in becoming an organ, Don. Is there a website they can go to? What does that process look like?

Carlie Oakley: Yeah. At IU Health there is, um, there is a website that they can go to and then it talks about organ donation and they can fill out the form and it's really just starts with your blood type.

That's where they start and they start with blood work and they don't have a lot of people that are interested just for doing it for nobody, because I don't think. People think, Gosh, no. What could I, you know, what could do? Or how could I do this? But there's a lot of really healthy people out there that are willing to do that.

You know, for somebody that would bring so much livelihood to the thousands of people, there's almost a hundred thousand people that go. Without the organ donation that they need annually to be able to get off dialysis.

Tiffany Sauder: Wow. Well, Carlie, thank you so much for generously sharing your story. Um, you know, it takes a lot of bravery to be vulnerable, especially when that's not the adjectives people would normally use about you.

You know, you're so accomplished, you're so special. You are so energy and you are so giving, and even those people in our lives, Sometimes need loved. So thank you for sharing your story with us and just who you are. You're such a gift.

Carlie Oakley: Thank you so much for having me.

Tiffany Sauder: Thank you for joining me on another episode of Scared Confident.

Until next time, keep telling fear you will not decide what happens in my life. I will. If you wanna get the inside scoop, sign up for my newsletter. We decided to make content for you instead of social media algorithms. The link is waiting for you in show. Or you can head over to tiffany soder.com. Thanks for listening in.

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