• How a Baylor history class saved a BU student’s life

    Sarah and Emma Ruth together in the hospital

    When Sarah Kraut sat down in her first class as a Baylor freshman — World History 1305 — she didn’t know she’d leave that semester with a new best friend.

    She also didn’t know that very friend would be the one to save her life.

    But that’s exactly what happened. When she was 14, Sarah was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a disease that damages the small blood vessels in your kidneys and eventually causes kidney disease and failure. Just two months before she headed to Baylor, Sarah lost kidney function, which meant she spent the weeks leading up to college learning to be on dialysis. She worried that her college experience would be plagued by the illness, and that it would inhibit her from making friends.

    That’s where Emma Ruth Bakke (BA ’20) enters the scene. In that world history class, Sarah — a Washington state native — noticed Emma Ruth had a Washington State sticker on her laptop. Before class one day, Sarah struck up a conversation about it and learned Emma Ruth was from Washington, too. And the rest was, well, history. The two ended up being partners in class, and quickly became friends.

    After a few weeks, Emma Ruth became the first person at Baylor that Sarah trusted to know about her condition. “Having a chronic disease gives you quite a dark impression of life,” says Sarah. “But having Emma Ruth in my life gave me hope.”

    “We were getting Dunkin’ Donuts after a long study session when Sarah told me her story,” remembers Emma Ruth. “Her situation opened my heart and shook my world. I felt this voice saying, ‘Give it to her.’ I felt this immense push to donate my kidney to her.”

    Following a few hard years and a testing process, they found they were not blood matches, meaning Emma Ruth couldn’t give her kidney directly to Sarah. But they didn’t give up; in April 2021, the two ended up being part of a kidney swap between four different pairs. Sarah, along with three other patients, was able to receive a new kidney.

    “Though this process was so difficult, it has been life-changing for Sarah,” says Emma Ruth. “Throughout her first years of college, she couldn’t really participate in student life. Now, with her new kidney, she’s able to embrace her true self. I’m honored to have been a part of that.”

    Now, Sarah is working to complete her undergraduate degree at Baylor. She hopes to graduate by 2023 and become a pediatric cardiac surgeon. Emma Ruth’s passions lie with documentary film, and she is currently working on two different storylines.

    “If not for Baylor, I never would have met Emma Ruth, and it’s quite likely I wouldn’t be alive,” says Sarah. “We are now almost to our one-year anniversary of transplant day, April 15. It will forever be a holiday for us.”

    Sic ’em, Sarah and Emma Ruth!