Monday, October 31, 2011

A kidney, from the heart

Tomorrow, my brother-in-law will be a life saver. He will arrive at the hospital bright and early at 5:30 a.m., go through surgery prep, and a few hours later one of his healthy kidneys will find a new body in which to work.

My brother-in-law, Dan, has a calling on his heart that will finally be fulfilled.

Dan is donating his kidney to someone he has never met. This surgery was to happen several weeks ago but due to unforeseen circumstances it did not take place. As all things work together in God's perfect timing, he is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. He does know that the recipient is someone who had about a 5% chance of ever receiving a kidney and Dan happens to be a match. Again, perfect timing.

It's wild, knowing that someone has a desire to donate a kidney to a stranger. More likely is someone willing to donate to someone they already know. I'm proud of Dan and I think it's special that he's finally going to be able to fulfill this calling that took root in his heart.

My sister says it best (taken from a note she wrote on Facebook when the first surgery was scheduled):

"Have you ever had someone give you something because they "had an extra"? I've received lots of things this way--kids' clothes, gardening tools, beach towels. Generosity is often prompted by recognizing that you have more than you need.

My husband, Dan Angenend, recognized this a while ago and has decided he is ready to part with his extra. His extra kidney, that is.

If you ask him, he'll say this idea took root a long time ago. His best friend has polycystic kidney disease, a disease that often requires a transplant. What started as a joke--"If I ever need a kidney, you'd better give me one"--became a calling. Turns out, his friend isn't going to need a kidney any time soon, but somewhere around 80,000 other people in the U.S. do. So, even after learning he'd probably never need to help his friend, Dan says the drive to donate a kidney never went away. He says he can't explain it, but he just knows without question that he is supposed to do this. And on September 6, he is going to.

Altruistic donors--organ donors who give to complete strangers--are sometimes referred to as "the rarest of the rare." But it seems they all share very similar sentiments--the feeling of just knowing deep inside this is something they are supposed to do, the desire to bless someone else as they have been blessed in life, the recognition of simply being able to fill a need.

From what I've experienced so far, being an altruistic organ donor makes lots of people uncomfortable. While those in the donor medical community often say, "You are a hero," people outside this circle say, "Are you crazy?" This has been a difficult path to navigate. Full support on one side, sanity-questioning on the other.

Facing the widened eyes and shocked expressions on people's faces can be wearying. I have learned that pursuing an untraditional calling, even when it's for a good cause, can result in a person simply being labeled a weirdo. 

But, along the way, there have been those other moments: Periods of complete peace washing over me, excitement expressed by someone who knows personally what this gift means, the simple assurance of the words, "It's OK. We're going to take good care of him."

I can't say that I fully understand Dan's desire to do this. He says he doesn't really, either, but that the only explanation is that something much larger than himself is behind it. Sometimes he simply says, "It's a God thing," when people ask.

I do know, without question, that this is something that has been placed on his heart and is not going away. We all have different convictions in life. Mine might not make sense to you, and yours might not make sense to me. But I am thankful for and humbled by those people like Dan who recognize theirs and follow through. Grace and peace to them."

So, if you think of it, tonight, tomorrow, whenever, please say a prayer for Dan, my sister and their family. Pray for the kidney recipient and the road ahead of them, as well as their family.

A kidney, from the heart.

I am thankful for Dan and for his example of following through with his conviction. 

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