It appears I’m somewhat obsessed with the notion of gift-giving these days. Take my recent blog post about Epiphany when it seemed all I could think about was that gold, frankincense and myrrh were odd gifts. Then there was the blog post in which I talked about the horrors of shopping at the mall right before Christmas and the glories of internet shopping. I offered my readers pictures of my grandkids opening their gifts. About the only thing I haven’t done is show you a copy of my credit card bill.
Oh, or donate a kidney.
Because, friends, while I have been focusing on material gifts, I recently met someone who truly knows the meaning of giving a gift of love.
Her name is Jo Lynn, and she’s mostly like you and me. She is a busy wife and mother with a full-time job. She has a life filled with housework and bosses and grocery shopping and school events. In addition to these normal activities, she also is an amateur athlete who does CrossFit and runs ultramarathons. Okay, maybe that’s not like you and me. But you get my point.
But one day Jo Lynn was looking at Facebook and came across a surprising post from one of her Facebook (and real-life) friends. Could you save my life? I need a kidney, the post said, or my kidneys will soon fail completely.
Jo Lynn was aware that her friend Mary was in kidney failure and had been for some time. Mary’s father and grandmother had died of kidney failure. Mary herself was at a point where she spent every single solitary night hooked to a dialysis machine that was keeping her alive. Imagine that. She hadn’t had a dream for three years because the dialysis machine prevented her from any REM sleep.
Mary was reluctant to take the step of reaching out to her Facebook community, but her husband insisted on it. Family members were unable to donate because their blood types were wrong. Mary’s blood type was O, and the list for kidney donors with that particular blood type was in the neighborhood of six years long. Mary was unsure if she had that much time. Facebook was one way of reaching a large number of people, her husband told her.
What grabbed Jo Lynn’s attention was that Mary had type O blood. That meant that Mary could only receive a kidney from someone with type O blood. Guess who has type O blood? Yep. Jo Lynn.
Right then and there, Jo Lynn began to form a plan. After talking to her husband (who not only didn’t think she was insane, but actually was sad that his own blood type prevented him consideration), she began taking the steps necessary to donate one of her kidneys to her friend.
And let me tell you, there were very, very, very many steps. You can only imagine. Test after test after test after test. Physical tests. Counseling with a social worker. Blood draws. CT scans. Jo Lynn didn’t even tell her friend that she was undergoing these tests for some time because she didn’t want to get her hopes up only to have them shot down because of some medical anomaly that would prevent her from being able to donate her kidney.
The tests went on for literally months. Jo Lynn saw the Facebook posting in March of 2015. The surgery took place on December 23, (coincidentally 61 years to the day of the first successful kidney transplant in Boston), at a hospital in Scottsdale, AZ. It just happened to be the hospital in which Jo Lynn was born.
Did you ever hesitate, I asked her. Was there ever a time when you thought maybe you had bitten off more than you could (or wished to) chew? Did you have second thoughts?
Not once, Jo Lynn told me. None of the family members could donate. She had the right blood type. “How could I sit back and do nothing?” she said.
Because I simply can’t leave well enough alone, I asked her if she was spiritual. She admitted to not being a church-goer. But she would also not reject the notion that God played – and continues to play – a part in this whole affair. After all, about the time that Mary learned she had bum kidneys, Jo Lynn – far, far away in Colorado – decided to begin eating a healthy diet and exercising. Almost like she was preparing her body for what was to come.
The next four to six months are critical in Mary’s life. If her body is going to reject Jo Lynn’s kidney, the next few months will tell. She will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. That is a small price to pay for getting her life back. She has even begun to have dreams again. Probably both awake and asleep.
As for Jo Lynn, her life will have to change very little, surprisingly enough. We can live perfectly well with one healthy kidney. The doctor’s only order? No contact sports.
Rats. So Jo Lynn will have to give up her dreams of being the first woman NFL player or a professional boxer.
And I’m going to have to reassess my ideas of giving gifts. I likely will never have the opportunity of donating a kidney, and am not sure I would even have the chops to do it if the opportunity presented itself. But Jo Lynn’s experience makes me very aware of what it means to love one another.
Nana’s Notes: The blog title comes from a song with the same title written by Gary Baker, Frank Myers, and Jerry Allan Williams; performed by South Sixty Five. Jo Lynn is a friend of my sister Jen, who I thank for arranging this meeting. It was a wonderful experience.