Kidney Kindness

Brenda Glean is from a family of eight children – five sisters and two brothers. She is married with four children and four grandchildren, and has been friends with Bernadette Thornhill for thirty-five years. They met at work when they were both very young and quickly became close. Not only has she been able to share Bernadette’s life experiences such as her marriage, the birth of her two daughters and the death of her eleven (11) day old baby, but also the trauma her family faced when her mother, aunt and younger sister were all diagnosed with and succumbed to Polycystic Kidney Disease. What Brenda did not know is that she was to share yet another of Bernadette’s life experiences.

 

The day came when Bernadette told Brenda that her doctors advised that she look for a kidney donor because of the deterioration of her kidneys. Brenda immediately asked her for the criteria to become a donor, to which she responded that the donor’s blood type must match hers. As Brenda pressed for more information, Bernadette told her that the list was extensive and required passing certain medical tests before a person could even be considered. Brenda asked her to send the list of requirements but Bernadette laughed because she thought Brenda was joking about donating one of her kidneys.

 

Brenda, however, was very serious. She explained that she felt moved by the Lord to help her friend and was simply walking in obedience to Him; there was no question in her mind. While the idea of her being a donor was never discussed between them, Brenda distinctly remembered the death of Bernadette’s mom, aunt and younger sister. She thought about herself: she had two well functioning kidneys, so couldn’t she give one? Her mind was filled with thoughts about the situation but they were more for the concern and well-being of her friend. After a week, she contacted Bernadette who still believed she was joking. By now Brenda had already begun her own research on how a person lives with only one kidney, such as the safety aspect, the risk involved, how it may affect her life after. She spoke with her doctor and her son Kerron. He was a medical student at the time, and assured her that it was safe; people donate all the time and they live long, healthy lives.

 

After this, she spoke with the rest of her family and their reception of her decision was greater confirmation that God was in the situation. It was no surprise as well that God had already begun to prepare Brenda. Before Bernadette ever mentioned that she needed a donor, Brenda had started to eat healthy, exercise and drink lots of water. When she discovered that one of the criteria was being healthy and shared this with Bernadette, she laughed. Other requirements included a number of tests – chest x-ray, blood tests, ECG, and so many others too numerous to recall. After the results were given to Bernadette’s doctor, Brenda was accepted as a potential donor. She was referred to the Mt. Hope National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) where a battery of tests had to now be performed to ensure she met the Unit’s criteria for kidney donation. Throughout all this, they prayed continuously and simply allowed the will of God to unfold. Tests were done once and sometimes twice per month. The NOTU is rigorous and does everything to ensure the donor is not at risk in any way. Brenda recalled that the regimen included a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, a 24-hour urine protein test, frequent blood tests and an MRI scan; and this went on for five months, from March to July 2013.

 

Eventually, at the very end of the five months, they received word that Brenda was a match and approval was given for the transplant. Now they only had to await a date for surgery. It should be noted that only 50% of siblings are compatible for kidney transplant so it was almost impossible for the two unrelated women to match. This was certainly a miracle!

 

On the morning of the surgery, Brenda signed the consent form without a moment’s hesitation. Bernadette had signed many consent forms before and knew of the risks involved, so she pointed out to Brenda that she did not read the form to know exactly what she was getting into. Brenda’s response was yes, she knew. With tears in her eyes, Bernadette insisted that she read the form. But Brenda was confident in what she heard from God and instead comforted Bernadette as they were wheeled into surgery. The risks included disability, blindness and death. Bernadette was amazed that Brenda would agree to such a thing for her, knowing that she could lose her life.

 

The surgery was a success and Bernadette’s life has changed from constantly being sick from the effects of dialysis three days a week, spending half-day on the machine and the other half recovering, significant weight loss, change of diet and little fluids – truthfully, she was a shadow of herself. She is extremely grateful for life, and does not wish the physical deterioration she experienced on anyone. Brenda’s name is constant in both her and her husband’s prayers of thanks. Brenda remarked that if she did not know she had surgery she would not know she now has only one kidney – she feels quite well and sees the entire experience as beneficial. It is a great feeling to be able to make a difference in the life of another. She expressed her love for Bernadette and thinks about what would have happened if she did not come through for her when she had the opportunity. Today she would jokingly say to Bernadette, “Let me speak to my kidney: I sent you across there to function well, so do it!”

 

Their bond of friendship has grown much stronger; they speak everyday and give God thanks. Brenda’s encouragement to others is to become a donor, as doing so can save a life.

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