It was spring 2004 when Bob, a member of our faith sharing group, brought an unusual experience up for discussion. He attended a car auction that week and a man was walking around asking people for help. The man explained he was suffering from kidney disease and was looking for people to donate kidneys in order to save his life. Even if their kidney didn’t match him, he said, it would go into a “pool” and would save someone else’s life.
As Christians and Catholics, Bob asked us what our answer should be. We had all donated our time, money and talents before, but this was a question none of us ever faced. I contemplated the question for a few days, but other human concerns eventually took over and it soon fell off my mental radar screen.
A few months later, though, Bob retold the story. This time, however, something was different. There was this incredibly strong feeling within me that I could not leave the church until I answered the question: “Would I donate a kidney to save someone’s life?”
I went into the church and sat there praying for strength and guidance. The flurry of thoughts in my mind seemed to be wrestling with my interpretation of Christianity and where we draw the line in loving our brothers. The voice challenged me to take all those good words I used in the past about loving unconditionally and put them into action. It was a defining moment in my faith—one that helped me understand what I truly believed.
After several very long minutes in prayer and silence, I was overcome by a warm sensation. The answer was surely at hand—I would say “yes.” It became very apparent to me that I was being called by the Holy Spirit to actively go forward and donate one of my kidneys.
In the next few weeks, however, I did nothing more than think about what happened. So it should have come as no surprise when I began seeing articles about organ donations and others who donated their kidneys. God was letting me know that He had not forgotten my commitment. I finally turned it over to our Lord and started investigating the process.
For three months, I was interviewed, measured, scanned, poked, bled, analyzed, probed and further evaluated to determine if I was healthy enough and if one of my kidneys was suitable for donation. During all this, though, I remember feeling completely at ease. It was as if something inside was letting me know everything would be all right.
It was interesting to note that of the six anonymous donors who had been evaluated during the past 12 months, I was the only one to make it through the entire process.
It wasn’t until I meet the recipient, Richard, the day before surgery that the pieces started falling into place. He had been undergoing six-hour long dialysis treatments three times a week for almost three years. He had little energy or stamina and could almost never be up longer than an hour.
Richard has a cousin who’s a Jesuit priest and another cousin and an uncle who are brothers in religious orders. Several prayer chains were working on finding a kidney. Once I discovered all he was going through, that we shared a rare blood type, A-negative, and all the prayers made on his behalf, it finally made sense why this was happening. My urge was simply God’s answer to all the prayers going out for him. It wasn’t about me or my donation at all—it was the plain fact that my kidney was the one Richard needed.
It came full circle the evening after surgery when I was alone in my hospital room, hooked up to medicine pumps, compression bandages, oxygen and IV taps. There was also this strange empty feeling in my side, accompanied by a fair amount of physical discomfort at every movement or breath. As I scanned all the contraptions and contemplated the ache in my side, I said to myself, “I might need that kidney some day. What the heck was I thinking?”
It was that brief moment of human feeling that told me I had not been thinking at all, just responding to a higher power that was guiding the entire process and making everything happen according to God’s plan. This self realization also made it clear that had the decision been left solely to me, I would not have responded so graciously to the call—and Richard’s pain would still remain. It was only through God’s love and the powerful intervention of the Holy Spirit that made this donation possible.