I'm about to have major surgery. In fact, I'm losing a kidney. I have two, we all do. But we only need one. By the end of October, that will be my reality. And I couldn't be more excited about it. Here's the story of why.
It started on December 7, 2018. That's when my dad put out a plea on Facebook. He had a friend, a woman named Kandy, who needed a kidney transplant. She was going downhill fast and they were looking for donors. It caught my eye. I had lived through that nightmare as a kid.
After my parents divorced my step-dad's kidneys failed. It got so bad he needed dialysis and ultimately was put on the transplant list. Lucky for him, his sister got tested, was a match, and ended up becoming his donor. Because of her act of sacrifice, his life was saved.
That always stuck with me. As a Christian, it stood out to me as a tangible example of what Jesus Christ did for us. And it came flooding back as I read my dad's post. So without talking to my wife (not recommended, by the way), I signed up to be tested. And much to my surprise, I began passing all the screenings and tests. And with each passing milestone I found myself getting more and more excited. I knew Kandy wanted this, but I was surprised at how much I did, too.
I started praying a simple prayer: "God as long as you keep opening doors, I'll keep walking through them." Doors kept opening, so I kept walking.
A couple months into the process, I got the news that Kandy had another donor and no longer needed me. But she connected me with Debra whose husband, Ken, needed a kidney. Once again, I just kept walking through open doors. Finally, in the spring of 2019, I got confirmation that I was a match for Ken. I was elated.
As we were beginning to finalize the transplant, Ken's health took a turn for the worst. The diabetes at the center of his kidney disease began ravaging his body even more. He had sores on his feet that refused to heal. Over the course of a few months, they got worse. And worse. And worse. The doctors had to amputate his toes. Then his feet. And finally, it got so bad that they had to amputate both of his legs below the knee. He was devastated. He started losing hope that he would ever be healthy enough for a transplant.
Debra? She kept praying.
The prayers worked. This spring, over a year after we started talking and after months of bad news, Ken finally got some good news. His sores had healed, his health was better, and the doctors told him he was ready for the transplant.
There was just one problem: I wasn't.
See, during the year Ken was getting healthier, I was doing the opposite. While I had lost a bunch of weight in preparation for the surgery, I had put it all back on...and then some. The transplant team gave me strict orders: Lose 20 pounds or no surgery. So I went to work.
And I failed.
From April to July I lost five pounds. Five measly pounds. I was frustrated. I was mad. I was ashamed.
So I did something drastic: I got in touch with a personal trainer. He kicked my butt. I kicked my butt. I started lifting weights and running 3.5 miles three times a week. I started eating right and sleeping more. And it worked. From July 4th to today I've lost over 20 pounds. And on October 14th, I'll weigh even less. That's because that's when I'll donate my right kidney to Ken. I cleared the final hurdle earlier this month: my doctor confirmed my weight loss and signed off on the surgery. The transplant has been scheduled.
So why am I doing this? I've been asked that a lot.
There are a few reasons. For starters, my step-dad unexpectedly died in April of a massive stroke. But because of his sister's kidney donation, we got 25 extra years with him. Her sacrifice pushed back his funeral by nearly three decades. That's incredible to think about.
There's also my little niece who, shortly after being born with a deformed heart, received a heart transplant and is now not just alive but thriving because of it. A transplant gave her new life, just like it did my step-dad.
Those are good reasons. But they aren't the biggest ones. No, the biggest reason I'm doing this is because I feel like God is telling me I should. I've prayed about it, I've sought counsel on it, I've spent hours thinking about it, and every time I arrive at the same conclusion: this is just supposed to be a part of my story. I don't fully know why, but I just know it to be true. I can't shake it. Has that ever happened to you?
Jonathon M. Seidl
Jonathon M. (Jon) Seidl is a writer, speaker, and digital media strategist. He’s the author of a forthcoming book on anxiety, OCD, and mental health that will be published in fall 2021.