On November 9th, 2011, I am giving away a kidney. The left one to be precise. Seriously.
The journey to this point has been a long one. For the recipient of my kidney, the story is even longer.
Ryan (that’s his name) has a rare disease in which his body attacks his kidney. In his early 30s (like me), Ryan currently lives with about 5% kidney function and has nightly dialysis in order to remove the toxins in his body. He’s a young guy, loves Jesus, works to protect abused and neglected kids at the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services, is recently married, and won’t live long without a kidney transplant. So, I’m going to give him one.
I met Ryan a few years ago when I lived in Washington. Ryan and I attended the same church in Washington, Oikos Fellowship, and my family and I got to know him over our time there. One day a friend of ours asked Jennifer to watch her kids so that she could go down to Seattle for some medical tests. It was then that we first learned about Ryan’s condition.
After a few weeks our friend told us that she was not cleared to donate her kidney to Ryan and that they would have to begin looking for a new potential donor. She said that the search was difficult because Ryan has O+ blood which is cool to have because you can donate to anyone, but tricky because you can only receive from someone with that type. When I heard this, my very first thought was, “I have O+. I could donate.”
I picked up the phone and gave Ryan a call. The truth is, I didn’t really know Ryan that well. We were acquaintances and spoke from time to time, but that was about all. The common bond we shared was the mercy of Christ in our lives and the connection of our church.
When I got Ryan on the phone, I’m pretty sure I said something along the lines of, “Hey, I heard you need a kidney and I think I have one you can use.” We talked for a bit and I got the details of his condition and the journey he’s been on with the disease. I got the number for the transplant center from him and gave them a call, throwing my hat into the ring. That was over a year ago.
About 6 months ago I received a call from the transplant center. They let me know that 2 other recipients had been through the screening process and been rejected for various medical reasons. They wanted to know if I was still interested in being a donor. I said yes and the testing began. Over the course of several months I was poked, prodded, and asked to pee in no less that 7 containers. Then, in September I was asked to fly out to Seattle for some final testing to ensure that I was a perfect match for Ryan. Long story short, I am.
So, we set a date and on November 9th Ryan and I will enter our respective surgery rooms and they will take out my left kidney and put it into Ryan. The result, God willing, is that Ryan will gain 20+ years of normal, dialysis-free, life and I will continue to live the normal life I already have. While there are risks for both of us, the risks for Ryan are far greater. For me, there is only minimal risks which are common to any surgery, a 3-6 week recovery period where I can’t lift anything over 10 pounds, and long term, studies show that kidney donors typically live very normal lives with no adverse effects from the surgery. For Ryan, his body will have to learn to use another person’s kidney. This is no small task and will require Ryan to take anti-rejection medication for the remainder of his life.
While that is the more “technical” side of the journey, I want to share some of the personal and spiritual aspects as well. To begin with, my wife and kids are all on board with this decision. As a family, we have prayed almost every night for nearly 2 years that God would heal Ryan and give him a kidney (Philippians 4:6). As a family, we have offered up prayers that if God would so chose, I was willing to be the donor. As a family we have placed our hope and trust for Ryan and this situation fully into the hand of the Lord. So when the call came that I may be the donor, it was simply the next step for us in our trusting God’s grace and provision (Proverbs 3:5-6).
One question that I commonly get when people find out that i’m donating a kidney to someone who isn’t a super-close friend or family member, is “why?” I’ve thought about that question a lot over the past year and it really comes down to two things: He needs it and I can do it. It seems like a somewhat simplistic answer for such a big decision, but through this journey I’ve come to realize more and more that this is just the kind of guy I am. When I meet people or situations that need something, I immediately begin to think about how I, or someone I know, could help. The best I can tell, it is just the way God wired me.
As a Christian, there is no doubt that my faith and hope in Jesus has played a part in this journey. I continue to think about the great lengths by which Christ gave of himself for me. As one who was far off and undeserving of mercy, Christ died to reconcile me to God (Romans 5:6-8). When you experience the gospel, it actually helps you to understand that life is about so much more than your own self-preservation. In the gospel you are free from the fear of saving your own life, but as Christ did, you can lay down your life for others (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus lead the way in this not only in his death and resurrection, but even before that as he, the one through who all things were created (Colossians 1:16), knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-17). Not worried about self exhalation, status, or the praise of men, he humbled himself and served others. Whether washing feet or laying down our lives, the gospel empowers us to live lives to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And, for me, that path has lead to donating a kidney. But not only that, it is the very same gospel that leads me to love my wife (Ephesians 5:25), my kids, my neighbors. The gospel radically reorients our lives and frees us to no longer simply seek our own good, but rather the good of others to the glory of God (1 Corinthian 10:31).
As we progress down this road, I would ask for your prayers. Please pray for a smooth and successful surgery. For speedy and full recovery for Ryan and myself. For the peace of Christ to guard our families (Philippians 4:6-7). And most importantly, for the glory of God to be seen in all we do.