#188. Listening To God

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in a loving family. We went to church every Sunday morning. I am one of three children, all girls. I went away to attend college and became a nurse. I moved back after 10 years to be closer to my family. Family is so precious to me. I have been working as a nurse for 21 years. 

Jody was really more of an acquaintance than a friend. We grew up in the same county but attended different high schools. I knew of him in high school because he was a great basketball player and was well known for that. Years later when we both had daughters about the same age, I was the coach of a softball team his daughter played on. We had some conversations during that time, but we were still more of acquaintances. We are friends on Facebook, and I noticed that he had made some comments that he was having some decline in his health. The comments were a bit vague, but as a nurse I picked up that he wasn’t doing well health-wise.

I sent a message, telling him that I was praying for him and that I hoped things were getting better. He sent back a nice thank you. Maybe a week or so later he made a comment that a friend or two had tried to be a kidney donor and hadn’t matched. It clicked with me then that he had chronic kidney disease. As a nurse, I have taken care of people on dialysis and have seen the terrible effects of chronic kidney disease.

I remember after reading his Facebook message, I was lying in bed resting from a shift at work. The thought came to me—it was like running into a wall—“Why are you just praying for him? Why can’t you do something more?” I know God put that thought there. “Why stop with praying?” I thought of his three young daughters. I am one of three daughters, and I can’t image having grown up without my dad or having him so ill he couldn’t have participated in my life in a meaningful way. I just kept having the thought, “You can do more than just pray.” I knew that God wanted me to do more than just pray for those girls and his wife. I needed to do what I could to make sure they had their husband and their dad. 

I reached out to Jody and told him I would like to do more and asked him who to contact. He was hesitant. Then a couple of weeks later, I reached out again and again said, “I would really like to do more.” He then gave me the information about contacting the transplant coordinator at the hospital. Interestingly, even though the transplant coordinator works for a big university hospital many miles away, he also grew up in our county. I contacted him and they mailed me a packet of questionnaires, which I filled out and sent back. Later the coordinator called me and let me know that I was ready to move to the next step. After that was the blood work and urine test to make sure I was healthy enough to donate my kidney. There were no maybes or buts. Everything was perfect. The initial bloodwork was done in February to see if I could proceed, and it appeared that I was a perfect match. I believe it was God ordained. During this time, there was a lot of time for me to reflect. I think we all go through a time of wondering what our purpose is. I believe every turn in my life journey led to me to give my kidney. I felt a complete peace about it. I had no hesitation, no worries. I gave up drinking soda and taking ibuprofen to make sure the kidney I was going to donate would be as healthy as possible. I believed at the time that God would take care of me and He has taken care of me. 

In April I had to go to the hospital to meet with a social worker for a mental evaluation and more physical tests like an EKG and chest X-ray and more blood work to make sure I was still that perfect match. I talked to the transplant coordinator. You have to have specific markers in your blood that match. The more markers that match the greater the chance the transplant will be accepted. The whole process was like rolling down a 100-mile highway with no potholes, no red lights, and nobody breaking in front of you. You just go. 

In July, 10 days before our surgery, Jody and I both had appointments with the surgeon. We met with him separately but were in the waiting room at the same time. That was the first time I had seen Jody since he had been on dialysis. It weighed on my heart that he didn’t look well and reconfirmed my decision to give him my kidney. There was a kind Christian woman in the waiting room who had given her kidney three weeks prior to her dad. Remarkably, she was also from our county. It was as if God was providing people all along the way to make us feel more comfortable with the process. The woman was very helpful. She filled me in on what to expect, which was a blessing to me. 

Our surgeries were on a Thursday. There was a wall between our bays in pre-op. They took me back first. When they were getting ready to take me back to the operating room they said, “He is beside of you.” I asked if I could see him, and they rode my stretcher to him. We linked hands (my sister and me and Jody and his wife) and he said a prayer. They offered anxiety medicine before taking me back, but I refused it. At no time did I have anxiety. We had to wait on the surgeon for 15 minutes after I got into the operating room, and even then, I had no nervousness. I was calm. Even when I woke up afterward, I messaged a friend to see if she wanted to go for a run. I walked to Jody’s room and went in to see him. My whole family was so supportive throughout the process. My mom brought two balloons to the hospital. Jody’s balloon said, “It’s a girl!” 

It has been a little over two years out now. I am wonderful and have had no problems. I continue to donate blood on a regular basis and keep an eye on my blood pressure which has been fine. I have had no ill effects from it and I don’t intend to have any ill effects.  

In September, Jody preached a sermon in a church in our county. I attended the service and Jody looked so healthy. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I try to encourage people to be organs donors while they are still alive, and they will actually see the benefit that the recipient gets from it. I get to see that now. People knew Jody for his basketball, but he is so much more than that. He means so much to so many people. I get to see that joy is restored in his household and with his friends and in his church. He is back to doing the things he loves like golfing, things that the disease had taken away from him. I get to relish in his joy, and this a great gift. His youngest daughter turned six today, and she has her daddy here for her birthday. 

I try to encourage people to not doubt what God puts on their hearts and to be willing to listen. We can ask God to speak to us, but we have to listen to God and not doubt that He will take care of us. If I never receive another blessing from Him, I couldn’t ask for any better earthly life than what He has provided for me. 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#137. God Is At Hand

 Photo by Pam VanArsdall

I was born with polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disease that slowly progresses and eventually causes the kidneys to shut down. There is no cure except a transplant. I discovered that I was living with the disease about 15 years ago, at around 30 years of age. I was healthy at the time, and for several years after my diagnosis, I kept a busy schedule and lived a normal life. But I felt something bad was coming. My dad also had the disease and died from complications.

In the summer of 2016, I prayed, “I don’t know how this will turn out but I do have one request: I want to be able to see my daughters grow up. I don’t want to miss out on those precious moments in their lives.” I’ve never heard God’s audible voice, but He told me this, “You will have to suffer for a little while but I will raise you up.” 

About a year ago my physical health was deteriorating. I had been feeling really bad but had been hiding it. I have three little girls and I was working full time. I was exhausted all the time. December 10, 2016 was the night everything changed. I serve as associate pastor at our church and was scheduled to preach the next morning, but I came down with horrible diverticulitis. I was the sickest I had ever been. I prayed if God would get me out of bed I would go to the doctor. I was able to get out of bed and I went to see my kidney doctor. He told me things were very bad and wanted me to go into the hospital for dialysis. He said if I had waited another two to three months I likely would have fallen dead in front of my children. I believe God sent the diverticulitis to get me to the doctor. In January, I began dialysis. I was able to work half days and take dialysis at the center nearby several times a week. I transitioned to home dialysis around March, but this was still hard on me and on our family. In April, I went for testing to be placed on the kidney transplant list. We were praying for God’s help. 

Meanwhile, my dad’s younger brother also had polycystic kidney disease. He was also on dialysis and had been on the kidney transplant list for a long time. He was a great support person for me. 

Two close friends volunteered to donate a kidney but they were both declined. This was disappointing. While I was waiting to see if one of my friend’s kidney matched, I got a text message from a lady I knew from high school who played basketball in the late 1980s at a rival high school. I had seen her around at different sporting events but hadn’t talked to her in 25 years. In her text, she asked if I would give her a chance to be a kidney match. My wife and I prayed about it and we were reluctant. As difficult as it is to give the gift of a kidney, it is also difficult to receive, because you know you are asking this person to really do something big. I had told the woman I would get back with her, but I did not. A couple of weeks later she contacted me again and said, “Would you please let me attempt to be your donor. Please give me a chance.” I said, “That’s a lot for me to ask of you.” She said, “God has asked me to do this.” I immediately gave her the phone number to call about testing to see if she was a match for me. 

There are several tests necessary to confirm a match. During this time, the woman kept messaging me as she took each test and telling me she passed. Finally, she sent a message that she had passed all the tests and had an appointment with the surgeon. 

In July, I received a call from the transplant center: “I’ve got good news for you. We have a successful match for a kidney transplant!” 

The surgery was scheduled for July 20. We were so excited! God had answered our prayer. We both met with our surgeon on July 12. When the surgeon saw the results of the match testing he said, “This is a no brainier. This is a 100% match! This is a perfect match.” This was GOD!! 

I asked my pastor to have all the ordained men of the church pray for me before the surgery and my uncle who also needed a kidney transplant was one of the deacons that prayed for me. I remember in particular my uncle’s prayer. He had been dealing with kidney disease and dialysis a lot longer than I had but he never mentioned himself one time. He had every right to mention himself, but he just prayed for me. That really impacted me. 

My surgery was scheduled on a Thursday morning. We were getting ready to leave for the hospital on Wednesday evening when we got a call from my uncle. He had previously told my wife that he would be with her during my surgery. He told her that he could no longer be with her while I was in the hospital because the hospital just called and they had a kidney match for him! 

The next morning, I showed up at hospital at 5:30 a.m. The woman who was donating the kidney was already at the hospital. They prepped us both for surgery and she insisted that the nurses bring her bed to mine so we could pray before our surgeries. My wife and her sister joined hands with us and in front of all of the doctors and nurses we asked Jesus to take care of both of us. 

As soon as the kidney was placed, it began working immediately. The surgery was completely successful for both of us. After they got me in a room, my wife told me that my uncle had gone into kidney transplant surgery at the exact time they took me into surgery and his surgery was successful. God divinely healed both of us at the same time. The story started to spread and even people who are not Christians could see that it was God’s hand. 

I believe in angels and that we encounter them from time to time. When they were moving me to a hospital room after the surgery, the phone in the room was ringing. My wife answered and I could tell she didn’t know who was on the other end. Afterwards, I asked her who it was and she said, “I don’t know, but it was a sweet lady’s voice and she said to tell you and your uncle that you will both be okay. Her name is Anita and she said she is an old acquaintance.” Later I asked my uncle if he knew anybody named Anita. Neither of us know anyone named Anita. 

Later when I was discharged from the hospital it was discovered that my phosphorus levels were dangerously low. I couldn’t go home from the hospital until I had the phosphorus infusion which would last six hours. We were taken to the far back corner of the emergency room, to a room that seemed like no man’s land. My wife and I were tired and really just wanted to go home. We were frustrated and having a really difficult time being patient with the delay—even just one hour into the six-hour infusion. Then there was a knock on the door. I told my wife they must be lost because no one would be back here. The woman said, “I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong room. Is your name Thompson?” We said yes. She said she had a piece of mail for us, which was interesting because we never received any mail when I was staying in the hospital room. She left and my wife opened the card and started to weep. She showed me the front of the card. It simply said, “God is at hand.” It was as if God just walked through the door and sat down with us. I felt His presence so strongly—perhaps more strongly than I ever have. The card was signed, “Many Blessings, Miss Anita!”

After the transplant, I immediately started to feel like a new person. I didn’t know how sick I was until I got the new kidney. We are four months out now and every check-up and every test has been perfect. I have a second chance at life now and my whole outlook on life has changed. I used to borrow tomorrow’s trouble for today, but I have learned to live life one day at a time. I have changed my whole outlook on life. I smile more. I laugh more. 

I have learned from this experience how many people really care for me. God reminded me that it is a truly priceless gift to have people that love you and that this gift comes from Him. Those loved ones come from Him.

God knew every need I had and He met them. I’m a walking miracle. He is truly faithful.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.