I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us in very powerful and personal ways. It's at those unexpected moments in time that we have the opportunity to grow closer to God as He pulls us into His fold and allows us to write our stories.
In 2014, the Spirit enveloped my heart when I heard a story on the radio about a woman who became a living kidney donor to a total stranger. I immediately began to realize the effect of their testimony as I made a personal run down of all the reasons why I should be a donor too. The right timing makes a huge difference, and the time was now.
I couldn't find a reason why not except for one thing, an incredibly painful surgery, lengthy recovery, and of course, living the rest of your life with only one kidney, and all for the compassion of a complete stranger. Hum..........
I felt the presence of God with me as I pondered the possibilities of His plan for my life, and more importantly, those lives yet to be touched. I couldn't let this go because, it wouldn't let go of me. There was something to this plan, much more than an impulsive thought from a radio story. It was burning in my soul, and it felt like love...like, faith in action. Was it possible that God really wanted to use me as a vehicle to change other lives besides my other professions as an Elder and a nurse? I believed so.
My husband thought I was out of my mind when I told him what I was thinking. We researched the good and the bad of all the possibilities. We talked to doctors and looked online. I read everything I could find, and I simply decided to leave it up to God. Prayer and scriptures are my go-to tools in making tough decisions. By January of 2015 I made the decision to start the process of testing as an altruistic donor through Integris Baptist Medical Center's Nazih Zudih transplant program.
I also made two friends online during my research through the website I originally heard about on the radio. One was the older sister of a boy in need of a kidney. They lived in Houston and were of the Muslim faith. My other friend lived in Bronx, New York and was a transplant candidate. She had a very thick New York accent. Now if that isn't Unity in Diversity, then I don't know what is. I wanted to be a donor for these individuals but for lots of reasons, it just didn't work out. Instead, they became my extended support system, and I became theirs, and we have remained as such still today. I did figure out one thing. I wanted to start a chain of donations. I felt very strongly that this was God's plan. I just didn't know when, where, or who, yet.
By late April I had completed all the testing needed to prove that I was a suitable donor. I hated the idea of surgery, but I really looked forward to watching God's plan unfold. It was sort of like a mystery with a new clue around every corner. Who would it be? While I was still questioning my sanity God's Holy Spirit answered me one night when when my dad and the band we sing and play in were asked to sing in a nearby church that hosted a benefit for a local charity. Unbeknownst to us it was LifeShare, an organ donation program, and the speaker was the parent of a kidney recipient! I felt God's presence stronger than ever! The next step was to place my information into the organ donor data base where my DNA would electronically be matched to potential recipients. Then more blood work and direct matching could determine if we were truly compatible. This was a big deal, and one that my family was secretly hoping I would give up on and forget.
Then one day in late spring of 2015 our family was hit with tragic news. My dad became increasingly weak and was diagnosed with advanced cancer that had metastasized to his liver. At the same time, my husband's dad was diagnosed with end stage Parkinson's and severe debility which forced him to be placed in a nursing home. I couldn't understand why God asked so much of me and led me so far into the donation process only to sideline our families with such devastation. Not only could I not donate to my precious friends, but now I may never get the chance to donate at all.
What I thought was a sideline turned out to be an amazing twist in a plot only God could create. When saints are downtrodden we do what we are called upon to do, turn to the sacraments. The gift of Administration is powerful. In our darkest hour, right before the biopsy, my dad was administered to, and God responded with the craziest diagnosis ever. Yes, my dad, the first man in my life, did indeed have metastatic cancer, a very slow growing, rare, and controllable type that invaded his liver and damaged his heart, and came with a mini set of miracles that involved monthly injections, a huge open heart surgery and a prognosis of many more quality years. Not only did God deliver on his promise of faithfulness to us, but His power went even further than the doctors believed treatment would take my dad. Despite the specialist's prediction of best outcomes, my dad's tumors shrunk by almost half, his blood pressure returned to normal, and his prostate cancer PSA levels (which had nothing to do with his new cancer) dropped by half. He started planning his future once again. One that didn't involve funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, my father-in-law did pass on by early fall. It brought my husband and me closer together as we planned and I helped preside over his services.
I began to realize a revolving theme of someone's parent in need of God's care....and someone's parent in need of a kidney. By the fall I knew it was time. In November while my dad was preparing for surgery, I was matched with a compatible recipient, 1400 miles away!! Her daughter, like myself wanted to save her mom who was so ill, but was not compatible. I was. She was a woman in her 60's, like my parents, and facing a life sentence on dialysis that would likely end in death in a few short years. Her amazing daughter also granted my request to further the chain by donating to a young woman in her early 20's on dialysis. GOD was and is beyond GOOD!
On Sunday while at church, the day before my surgery, I asked for administration, not just for me, but for everyone on my chain. The next morning, I checked in for surgery accompanied by my husband and a waiting room quickly filling with people awaiting their surgical destiny. I prayed a silent prayer for all of us. The night of my surgery on December 7th, I laid in my hospital bed with all kinds of tubes attached, literally feeling like I'd been slammed by a semi-truck, and beside me were both my parents (dad still recovering) and my husband. We were told that my left kidney, which had a plane ticket to Baltimore, had arrived safely and was working well (making urine) in its new body. The next day, on December 8th, my recipient's daughter gave up a kidney for her new recipient. And so, my little chain of two had begun. Two weeks before our scheduled surgeries, my husband finally came around to the acceptance of what I felt led to do (another small miracle). My dad, after his medical ordeal accepted what I wanted to do, and even more so when he learned it was another parent and another daughter who were willing to walk the same tight rope as we were. We needed this experience. We all needed God. We needed to feel Jesus Christ in action. And we all were able to give and receive of God's blessings because of it. The Enduring Principle of Grace and Generosity abounded as well as The Worth of All persons, All are Called, Unity in Diversity, and Sacredness of Creation (for the good things and the difficult). The Blessings of Community between Stillwater, OK and Baltimore, MD (Integris Baptist and John's Hopkins) were both unpredictable and wonderful surprises. Responsible choices were carefully considered during the donor process, and the Continuing Revelation of God's unyielding love for us (His creation) have brought forth unbound joy for several families all because someone believed.
What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV
November 11: In the USA this day is Veterans Day. In Canada we call it Remembrance Day. In both countries we take this time to reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in our respective countries' armed forces. Most people think about those who paid the "ultimate price" for freedom, meaning they gave their lives while doing their jobs. It is fitting that we should honour them, but there are many, many more who gave their lives but did not die. Let me explain.
For 48 years, I have been married to a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. He spent 30 months fighting a war...not to protect OUR freedom but the freedom of people he did not know in a country he had probably never thought much about until this conflict planted him there. He did this not because he enjoyed what he was doing but because he was following orders and because he believed it was his duty. He received relatively minor physical wounds but MASSIVE emotional and psychological wounds that more than 45 years later have still not healed. Those wounds have impacted his life, my life and the lives of our children, in ways that I would not have imagined possible. After years of therapy with skilled and compassionate counsellors, emotional scar tissue has formed and the wounds are not so raw. But there is not a single day that the impact of those 30 months does not affect our lives, and usually not in a positive way.
So here is the point of my post...on this Remembrance Day/Veterans Day, please remember to say thank you to those veterans (and their families) who are still with us. The ones who gave their lives but continue to suffer.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.