No Greater Love: John Mark’s Story
I met David playing pickleball not long after moving from Oklahoma to Syracuse, New York. I had decided I wanted to play pickleball and meet new people, so I found a pickleball group on Meetup.
We became friends, as he and I enjoyed playing together—and against each other. Sometimes we’d be the only two on the pickleball court, so we’d work on our technique.
One day, he showed me some photos of him standing by a small airplane. He told me he had recently flown to the Boston area and that he needed a kidney transplant. Not able to get on the transplant list here in New York, he was hoping to qualify in Massachusetts. However, the chances of him getting a kidney were very slim due to his age and deteriorating health.
Around the time of our discussion, I had an abdominal scan for an upcoming unrelated procedure and was told by the nurse that I had really good-looking kidneys. We laughed as I told her that was the only good-looking thing about me.
As I considered the outside possibility that I could pass away, and being totally ignorant of how the organ transplant system worked, I decided to write up a short Last Will and Testament and indicated that if I died, I wanted David to have my kidney. I didn’t know his last name at the time, but I included his phone number.
Prior to surgery, I told my nurse and my surgeon that I had that in my pocket in case I didn’t make it. They assured me I’d make it. I just figured that if I went to be with the Lord, they’d yank out my kidney, call David in, and stick it in him. I found out that’s not how it works.
Anyway, obviously I survived. But God had put it on my heart that I didn’t need to die to give David my kidney. This would be a very powerful way to present the gospel to him—that as Jesus the Messiah gave His life for us so we could live forever, I could offer my life—or at least my kidney—so my friend could live at least a little longer.
I thought of the scripture that says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I also had heard somewhere that though we have two kidneys, we really only need one. The other one’s extra. So, these things all came together.
Thus far, I hadn’t said anything to David about all this. One day, after a round of pickleball games, David and I were last on the court. I said, “David, I want to show you something.” I pulled out my piece of paper. “This is what I wrote when I was going in for my procedure.” I handed him the Last Will and Testament I had written. As he read it, I could see it really touched him. I told him, “I want to give you one of my kidneys.” It was hard for him to find words to express his appreciation.
After three trips to the Boston area to see if I met the stringent medical requirements to be a donor, they ended up denying me. I knew this was hard on David. I even contacted a transplant center here in New York, but after a short phone interview they said I would not meet their conditions as a donor. Soon David would have to go to the clinic for dialysis three times weekly—a very difficult thing to go through—and then he and his wife learned how to do home hemodialysis, which was four times a week.
I contacted the hospital David was going to in Florida, and after passing the initial interviews, I was invited to fly there for a battery of tests to see if I would be a suitable donor. In January, I arrived for testing. After taking what seemed like gallons of bodily fluids, and multiple x-rays, scans, probes and prods, they accepted me as a suitable donor. Great! I may be good for something after all. Not only that, but David and I were a match! We matched in blood type as well as tissue crossmatching.
The transplant occurred on May 1, 2023. Upon waking up, someone asked me if I’d heard why David’s surgery took longer than expected. As I didn’t know, they told me because my kidney was so big. The transplant was a complete success for both of us. David named my kidney “Lumpy” as it’ll stick out a bit in his abdomen.
I’d like to thank the National Kidney Registry and Donor Shield for reimbursing me for the travel and lodging expenses I incurred. Only a couple days after submitting my receipts I received notice the funds were deposited into my account.