I Gave My Son a Kidney

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Guest post by Brenda Gates @BrendaGates

“Your son will need a kidney transplant by the time he weighs twenty pounds,” the pediatric nephrologist told me as I held my one-week-old son in my arms.

I looked down at this child God had given us. Silver-blonde wisps of hair covered the dome of his head. Sky-blue eyes gazed into mine, then drooped shut, too weak to stay awake. My vigorous, perfect newborn had withered into a listless infant who needed feeding through a nasogastric tube.

Day after agonizing day, he experienced blood draws, x-rays, MRI’s, and more. The doctor suggested a procedure to help stabilize him, allow him to go home, gain weight, and gain strength before doing necessary reconstructive surgeries.

For the next three years, we were in and out of the hospital, balancing electrolytes and going through surgeries to reconstruct his defective ureters and bladder. He didn’t understand the misery and pain. I would hold my beautiful, almost perfect baby boy and cry out to the One who made him that way. Why him? I would trade places with my baby in a heartbeat.

I would give my life to carry his pain.

Through the wall of God’s silence, He opened my eyes. I saw the suffering of others around me; parents holding the hand of a child with a terminal illness, toddlers crying in cribs with no one to hold and comfort them. Little ones wandered the halls pushing IV poles, only thin strands of hair remaining after a harsh round of chemo.

So much sorrow.

I learned to hold my son tight and be thankful through the tough times. He had hope. Someday, a transplant could help him live a healthier life.

Then a miracle happened. He began eating on his own, grew healthy and strong. The hospitalizations ceased. His kidneys were responding. My beautiful, almost perfect baby boy grew. Thirty pounds, forty, and more.

“His next danger stage will be his teenage growth spurt,” the doctor said.

He graduated from high school, went to college, got married. All was well.

And then it wasn’t.

The decline in kidney function came suddenly. Our world crumbled around us, and we clung to each other and to faith in the God who made my handsome, almost perfect son. God knew his future, and He had a plan.

When the testing for donors began, there was no doubt in my mind I would donate if I qualified. I’d give both kidneys if that’s what it took for him to live.

I was with my son when we received the call. I was a match! We hugged and high-fived. He was nervous, worried for me. I was ecstatic. My son had a chance at a normal life; a life without machines sustaining him.

The surgery was successful! Within moments of connecting my kidney to his blood supply, it began pumping out urine, cleaning his system. Few things are so beautiful.

Within days his labs were normal, his mind-fog lifted, his energy returned.

Still, life is full of uncertainty. He will always need to take medications to suppress his immune system. This will make him more susceptible to viruses and other health issues. His body might reject the kidney I gave him. He may be fine—until one day he isn’t.

We can go mad with worry, or we can rejoice over another chance to live a healthy life. Best of all, we can rest knowing God is in control.

So much of life is uncertain. I could be killed driving to the grocery store. A head injury could leave me unable to speak, or write, or think like myself. Everything I have or love can be taken away. Life has few guarantees.

One thing is certain, a constant that will never change. There is One who knows what we need and died to provide it.

Like my son’s kidneys, our hearts are defective, diseased from birth. We will die without a new heart.

Unlike a kidney donor, a heart donor must first die. Jesus volunteered to give his life so we can live. The Son of God is willing to give us each a heart transplant.

Like all transplant recipients, our body’s natural reaction is to reject the new heart. It’s foreign. It’s out of place. Our body doesn’t know it’s there to give us life.

So, like all transplant recipients, we need to keep up with the meds: reading our Bible, praying, learning to accept that our life is not our own but was bought with a price. We need to take time to rejoice in the gift given to us.

I read an interesting article shared by someone on the FaceBook Kidney Donor Group I belong to. It seems some people claim they’ve taken on cravings and personality traits their donors had. I’m not sure that there is any direct correlation, but it is a fun idea to ponder.

When it comes to spiritual things, the correlation is without question. The new heart from God? It changes who we are. It creates new cravings, new desires. It creates a new purpose.

For me, part of that new purpose is to love more intently and to infuse everything I write with the love and grace of the One who died so I can live.

By the way, almost a year has passed since my kidney donation to my son. While he has yet to develop my salad cravings, he is doing amazing.

What new cravings, desires or purpose has your “heart transplant” given you? Please share in the comments below.

Brenda Gates

Ever since being the proverbial knee-high to a grasshopper, Brenda loved spinning tales. Married in college, Brenda Gates worked as a nurse, then was able to stay home to raise and homeschool their four children–a perfect occupation for a storyteller. Every bit of history learned, every place touched by people and time, has a story begging to be told. Brenda loves sharing her experiences and insights on her blog, Another Day to Smile, as well as on FaceBook. She is excited about her debut novel, Anna’s Song. Now a proud grandma, Brenda lives with her husband, their teenage son, a German Shepherd who thinks she is mother to a cat, and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.

Thank you, Brenda, for a powerful story.