Our next two “Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom” both took the idea of giving ones self to the service of another literally. Both of these women felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to give a kidney away to a total stranger to save their life.
I am honored to have crossed paths with these ladies. I met Doni (on the right) our first of these two amazing women while standing in line at the bookstore. My kids have rolled their eyes more than once when I have struck up a conversation with a total stranger but, I feel we are missing a lot when we don’t reach out and talk to others. My theory was proven correct the moment I spoke my first words to Doni. Standing in line with me was one of the most amazing women ever and I would have missed the blessing of her story and the story of her friend had I not spoken to her.
She told me she was buying the gift for a friend (Teresa on the left above) who had signed up to give her kidney away to a total stranger because she felt led by the spirit. I remember saying something along the lines of, “That is amazing and I don’t think I have that in me”. As the conversation unfolded I would learn that Doni had also given her kidney in the same way. I stood there in that line, humbled by the love of the Lord that these two women had in them that would lead them to be willing to give up a piece of themselves to give life to another.
I shared John 15:13; Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends in my last episode about Toni, a women in the military who was willing to put her life on the line for her country in her service and it seems like the perfect scripture to carry on to this 2 part episode.
There is no way to tell the story of these two women in one post. Today I will start with Doni since I met her first. Doni is one amazing “Real Housewife of God’s Kingdom”. Her journey began in June of 2001 when she read an article in Parade magazine. It was in that article that she first learned of Altruistic Kidney Donation.
“I read an article in the Parade Magazine about a man named Harold who had given one of his kidneys to a total stranger. As I read the article I realized that the story was no longer about Harold but about me. I too was going to do this. At that time in my life, this feeling was one of the most overwhelming experiences I had ever had. It was almost as if I had heard God’s voice saying, “Doni you too are going to do this.”
Once Doni is on a mission she doesn’t stop. She began calling the numbers on the list for those interested. In 2001 Spokane (her home town) did not have a kidney transplant center for altruistic donors so she found herself at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Today Spokane is fortunate to have Sacred Heart Medical Center to do the procedure for people in her hometown.
In order to do this Doni would quickly learn that there was a different protocol to giving a kidney from a donor that is not deceased. She began working with the University of Washington Medical Center and going through the process of various requirements and medical testing.
Since the day I met her I have tried to roll this around in my head many times wondering, how do people do that? As I read what she said I still find myself saying, “Could I really do this Lord?” Her words are so powerful.
“I didn’t tell many people what I was doing. I was afraid that if I told people then I would really have to do it. I wouldn’t be able to back out. I began to question my motives and reasons. Spending hours talking to God. My mantra became – God if you want me to walk down this path then just keep the doors open. I wanted to be obedient to what I felt I was being called to do. My husband and I met with our pastor. I spent hours trying to figure out how to do this as a stay at home mom in a blended family of 5 kids ages 8 –18”
God was going to have to work all this out is what Doni decided. When she began to settle into the idea that this was actually going to happen, the unexpected happened. Three days before Doni was to fly to Seattle for additional testing everything came to a halt. It was the day we will never forget in this country, 9/11/2001. After the shock of what had happened to our country, the holidays came and went. Doni was asked to train for a marathon to raise money for diabetes. Her friend was rounding up six women to go to Dublin, Ireland and run with her in a marathon for diabetes. Since Doni’s sister was an insulin dependent diabetic she said. “Yes” to the opportunity to make a difference for such an important cause. She called Seattle and put the donation on hold so she could run the marathon in October of 2002. That would lead to a half marathon in Kona, Hawaii in June of 2003 with her husband. Now that she had her fill of running she called the University of Washington Medical Center and said “OK, I am ready to do this now.” Sadly, too much time had passed and she would have to start the medical testing all over again.
“Ok God, here we go again. Was this a door closing, was this God telling me that it was too much to do. My faith was tested so many times in the coming months”.
In April of 2004, Doni and her husband took all 5 kids to Seattle. Doni had to have some medical tests ran and we wanted to show the kids where mom would be if this all continued to move forward. Though all this time had passed she continued to tell very few people. “I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I just wanted to focus on God’s calling,” Doni said. In May of 2004 she got the final word that she had qualified to donate and now just needed to pick a date that worked for her.
Insert the sound effect of screeching tires after the brakes are slammed on as I stop this story for a moment….I have to be honest. I don’t’ think I have it in me to do what Doni did. I don’t think I could pick a day that would work for me to just give my kidney to a total stranger. My kids yes, my sibling yes, but a stranger is so hard for me to wrap my mind around. I am guessing there may be many of you reading this that are in the same boat I am. That being said, let’s get back to the story.
Things seemed to be moving along smoothly and then there was a bit of a speed bump. Doni called her sister (the one who is an insulin dependent diabetic). She figured because her sister was such a huge supporter that she would be thrilled. Instead she was met with, “How could you do this to me? Don’t you know I have diabetes and could possibly need a kidney someday?” Doni couldn’t believe her ears. What was she talking about? Things like: We had been down this path. Why now? Was the door closing? Began to fill her mind.
Doni shared with me that she called the University of Washington Medical Center and that they arranged for her sister and her to see a Nephrologist in Spokane. One that didn’t know either her or her sister and that could be an unbiased third party. After the doctor met with them he praised Doni’s sister on how well she has managed her diabetes. He strongly felt that the chances of her ever needing a kidney were so small that by the time that would ever happen that Doni would be too old to donate to her. No one had ever told Doni that she would be too old to do something.
I think the next part of this story would be best be told in Doni’s own words:
“Hurdles passed, faith still strong. Continuing my mantra – God if you want me to walk down this path then just keep the doors open. Surgery was scheduled for the middle of June 2004. In the last rounds of blood work and a small abnormality was detected.
Seems my thyroid was off a bit. Sure I was always tired and didn’t sleep well. I was in my mid 40’s and had 5 kids. I was busy with women’s ministry, school volunteer, scouting volunteer, band mom, wife, and CEO – of our home. Of course I was exhausted. Only that wasn’t the case. I had hypothyroidism. Really God? Not funny. The one thing I must say is that when a person decides to give away an organ they certainly get wonderful medical care. The best specialist in town immediately saw me. Once my thyroid was under control, I was able to pick a new date to donate. Now my last hurdle would be to explain to my now 11-21 year old children that my biggest risk would be, being put under for the surgery. Laying it all out on the table my children never wavered. While explaining to them that this could possibly be the day that mommy goes to meet Jesus, my youngest said, “It will be ok mommy, Jesus will be with you.” To witness their faith and trust was an overwhelming gift. As I said goodbye to them when I left for Seattle, they were so strong and brave. I will never forget the smiles on their faces as tears clouded my eyes and God assured me that they were in his hands. The best gift of all!
I was blessed to finally donate a kidney on August 18, 2004 to a total stranger. (Doni is on the left in this and the recipient Teri is on the right) I spent 2 weeks in Seattle and then was home just before school started. I was back at my job of making school lunches and driving kids here and there. Life was back to normal. 16 weeks post op we went back to Seattle where I ran – very slowly – the Seattle half marathon with Team Transplant. It was at this time that arrangements were made for Teri and I to finally meet. Donation is always confidential unless both parties want to meet. Three months post op the hospital had heard back from both of us that we wanted to meet and so it was arranged.
I continued to not share my story much. It was our pastor who first asked me to share with our church. A story of faith and giving was what I had. It was shortly after that, that once again God came knocking. Now God wanted me to step out and share my story with people and continue to be able to help save lives by doing so. Just like Harold and how he had shared his story. Harold was God’s angel that day and encouraged me to follow. So nowadays I work as a volunteer with Life Center Northwest, and I go into the schools and speak primarily to freshman classes about the importance of understanding the choice to mark their drivers license to register or not to register to be an organ donor.
The Life Center Northwest program that Doni volunteers for is a totally different that the DOL program. Doni said if anyone would like to know more information about what she does please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also she would like everyone to know they can go on line to the DOL at donate life today to register their driver’s license as a organ donor…..When a life is ended, another life can be saved by simply marking yes to organ donation.
I ask every one of these amazing Real housewives of God’s kingdom to share their favorite verse with me. Doni has many that she loves but this one sets on her desk and she focus on it everyday is Matthew 16:26 – With God all things are possible.
One of the questions I had for Doni was, “What did you learn from this?” Her answer was, “There have been many but, the biggest is that God is always with us, he is in charge, we just need to listen and allow him to do his work. Easier said then done. In today’s world we often don’t slow down enough to listen, we don’t like what we hear and we want things done NOW. It is no fun to wait. But waiting on God, in his time, being patient, following His ways, and trusting Him and walking is faith is so sweet.”
Doni and Teri (the recipient of the kidney) continue to be wonderful friends. They talk and email, exchange cards and see each other about once a year. She has now begun the mentoring process for another lady who is hoping to donate a kidney to her brother. This lady lost her husband to kidney failure and now her brother is in kidney failure. She is a believing woman but she is very fearful at this time. Doni has only spoken to her by phone but looks forward to meeting her. She was able to pray with the lady and hopes she give her some help to start this journey. One of the last things Doni said was “I just love how God opens doors for us”. I have to say I love it too. I am humbled that he opened a door for me to meet this amazing women and to be able to share her story with you and to see how God used her to open the door for the next women in our series Teresa who was moved to give her kidney after hearing Doni and another volunteer speak. God is good and I thank him for blessing all of us with this story.
I hope to see you back tomorrow when we pick up this story with Teresa who also gave her kidney to save a life.
Blessings, The midlife domestic goddess.