News Archives

Commentary: God inspires decision to donate kidney

 


Commentary: God inspires decision to donate kidney

June 10, 2004                                                                                                  

 

A UMNS Commentary

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

 

 

I survived my first United Methodist General Conference, my daughter's high school graduation and donating a kidney to my stepfather.

 

The only visible scar is from the operation.

Back in college, I came up with this silly phrase that my roommates and I would say to each other at opportune times: “Life ain’t nothing if it’s not varied.”

You just never know what might happen. I am a living, breathing, walking-around-all-on-my-own organ donor. And because of me, my stepfather is a living, breathing, walking-around-all-on-his-own organ transplant recipient.

The surgery on Feb. 11 was the climax of a long spiritual, emotional and physical journey that started last August, when my stepfather, David, was officially placed on a donor waiting list.

That day in August, God let me know I was the one who needed to step up and volunteer. I really can’t explain how God did that. I just knew in my heart that I would be able to do this and that everything would be okay.

 

At that dinner, she asked, “What if you had something you didn’t need, and giving it to another person would save his or her life?”

Put that way, I can’t imagine the choice would be very difficult for anyone. It was simple. I am not brave or heroic. God gave me a wonderful opportunity by providing me with a kidney that could save David’s life.

Most people assume that I am really close to my stepfather, that I love him very much.  The truth is I never wanted anything to do with having a stepfather.

My mother married David Long 12 years ago. I was a grown woman with two small children of my own. My father was bitter about the divorce and about David. On my part, it felt like a betrayal to really let David into the family, much less into my heart. Until just recently, I would never even use the term “stepfather” and would bristle when someone else used it. I always referred to him as “David, my mom’s husband.”

When my mother told him I was being tested as a possible kidney donor for him, he was as surprised as anyone. He said, “I didn’t think Kathy liked me that much.”

Those words hurt me more than anything the surgeons or lab technicians did to me. I am really sorry I spent so much time not getting to know him, not letting him know me. Maybe that’s why God chose me to be the one who could help.

In the beginning

David’s kidneys were damaged when he was an 18-year-old serving in the Army. His tonsils, which had been removed when he was a child, grew back. He got them removed again, but poison from the infected tonsils had already started damaging his kidneys.

At age 60, he went on dialysis. If you want a glimpse of hell, visit a dialysis center. When your kidneys fail, a machine is used to remove waste and excess fluid from your blood. In David’s case, it meant having at least three treatments a week, with each treatment usually lasting about four hours.

He was on dialysis for three years before going onto an organ transplant waiting list. I had three years of not really knowing what he and my mother were going through because they live in Louisiana and I am in Nashville, Tenn.

As a veteran, David gets all his medical care from the Veterans Administration. The Veterans Administration has three hospitals in the United States that do kidney transplants and, as fate would have it, one of them is in Nashville.

First come the tests

I made the first of what would be many phone calls to Jackie Ray, the person in charge of kidney transplants at the Nashville VA. She asked what my blood type was and then told me that I was probably a good candidate.

Throughout the testing stage, she emphasized to me that the doctors would not under any circumstances take my kidney unless I was totally healthy.

I underwent blood tests, urine tests, X-rays and interviews. I had at least two EKGs to check on the health of my heart. The last test was the scariest: an arteriogram. With this test, doctors put a needle in the artery in your groin and inject dye into the kidneys.

So many times during this process, I felt the hand of God. This time, God sent me an angel, a nurse who was a devoted United Methodist. She stood by me, stroking my hair and softly telling me everything that was going on during the arteriogram. I remember how awed she was at seeing my kidneys materialize on the screen next to my bed. I know she has seen thousands of internal organs in her life, but she took the time to point out to me how awesome God has made the human body.

“Even your insides are beautiful!” she said.

Blessed

Finally, the day came when Jackie called me and asked, “When do you want to do this?”

My family asked me hard questions. What if something goes terribly wrong during the surgery? What if you die? What if, a few years down the road, you start having kidney problems? What if your husband or one of your children needs a kidney?

I listened carefully to all the voices; I heard all the concerns of those who love me. But the voice that was the strongest and most persistent was God’s.

At 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 11, David and I donned matching blue cotton gowns, paper hats and paper slippers, and were wheeled into surgery.

I was released on Valentine’s Day and am feeling great. David is still struggling to get his medications at the right levels — he takes 40 pills a day — but he is free from the machine and living a more normal life.

I think now more than ever, I really understand the meaning of Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel knowing David is getting better. It is still hard for me to believe I actually went through with everything.

Maybe saying this is my year of living dangerously is a little over the top. Maybe it is more accurate to say this was the year I stepped out on faith and was richly blessed by God.

 

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.· E-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.