The story of one of my best friends, Jerry. He told me this story over dinner.
The day after prom, Jerry woke up with swollen ankles. He thought he might have sprained his ankles, so he went to see the doctor.
The doctor felt like something was wrong, so he ran some tests.
And then he sat Jerry down.
“Jerry…You have Nephrotic Syndrome. This means your kidneys are diseased and unless you take oral steroids, you could possibly die from kidney failure.”
Jerry was 17 at the time.
Jerry’s heart sank. He immediately began the steroid medication.
The side effects were terrible. His face swelled up, broke out in acne, his body ached and hair grew everywhere.
He said it made him feel like a "monster."
So he decided to stop taking the pills. The side effects began to go away and Jerry was back to living a normal life.
For a while.
One day, after two weeks of headaches and dizziness, Jerry went to sleep, woke up, opened his eyes and could only see darkness.
He was rushed to the emergency room.
Because he went off his meds, both his kidneys had failed.
The only way he would survive was with a kidney transplant. It was complicated though: He was O+ blood type.
This meant he could only receive a donation from someone who was O+.
And so he went on dialysis for 11 straight months waiting for a donor.
Imagine getting a tube jammed down a hole in your shoulder so that your blood could be cleaned. Yeah, that's dialysis.
This process would take 4 hours a day and he had to do it 4 times a week.
Finally, one day, a friend offered to donate and was a match.
However, before he could donate, he would have to pass a series of tests to be eligible.
The first test was the genetic marker test. At least 3 out of 6 had to match. 3 matched.
The second test was a physical. He passed.
The third test was a psychological test. He failed.
He could no longer donate his kidney to Jerry.
Shortly thereafter, Jerry’s mom received a letter stating that Jerry was back on the donor list. When she received the letter, she began to sob hysterically and asked, "why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want to break your heart.”
His heart sank just saying that.
One day, his mom was at the gym, running on the treadmill.
Suddenly, she began crying uncontrollably.
A woman noticed her crying and asked, “Are you ok?”
She replied, “You can’t help me, just leave me alone,”
The woman walked away.
And then, surprisingly, she came back.
“Look, something is telling me to come talk to you, so what’s wrong?”
“Well, if you really want to know, my son is dying and we can’t find someone to donate a kidney to him because of his blood type.”
“What’s his blood type?” asked the woman.
“I’m O positive. I’ll donate," the lady replied.
Jerry’s mom was completely taken aback. Just think about this for a second: A random stranger in the gym, whom she had never spoken to, just volunteered to donate her kidney to save her son.
They ran the tests.
The first test was to match 3 out of 6 genetic markers. She matched 6, a perfect match.
The second test was to pass the physical. She passed.
The third test was to pass a psychological test. She passed.
There was only one catch.
The doctor didn’t want to operate on someone who was 55 or older.
Guess how old she was?
She was 54. Just two weeks from being 55!
They did the surgery immediately. The day Jerry woke up from the surgery, he said he felt 10 times better. Because of a stranger's kindness, Jerry is alive and healthy today (and doing well according to the Facebook posts and messages I still see from him!)
So what's her story?
Well, she was a widow and never had kids. She’s now part of Jerry's family and is over for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
When Jerry had finished telling me his incredible story, I could only think of one thing:
Life can be fragile. Life can be unpredictable. Life can be short.
So every time I'm blessed with another day where I wake up, I'm going to make the most out of it.