by Dorothy Bliskey
This Christmas season finds sisters Kathy Clements, age 56, of Waupun and Alice Satterfield, 67, of Southlake, Texas aglow with happiness over the best Christmas gift of all. Kathy donated her kidney to Alice – who now has a new chance at life. The double surgery took place at a hospital in Dallas, Texas on June 6 of this year.
As the youngest of five children in their family, Kathy is proud to have giv- en her oldest sibling, Alice, the hope for a renewed, long, and healthy life ahead. “I prayed about it, and talked with my husband who was very supportive of me donating my kidney,” Kathy said. “It’s a serious choice and a major surgery, but so worth it.” Alice, who is still recovering but getting stronger every day, is grateful for the gift she received from her sister. “It’s been six months since the surgery, and so far the transplant looks good, my kidney function is normal, and I am feeling so much better,” Alice said, noting that for a positive long-range outcome she will need to faithfully take specific medications and follow safety protocols. “I am very thankful to Kathy and to our Lord for all these blessings.”
When it comes to encouraging others, Kathy advises that potential donors be proactive in offering to donate an organ if they are willing. “It’s very dif- ficult for a person in need of an organ to ask for one,” Kathy said. “So, I would encourage family members or friends to consider offering if they feel led to do so.”
“I encouraged my sister and assured her I would be willing to donate my kid- ney if I was a match. The touching part is that my husband and son also voiced a willingness to be tested. That warmed my heart (and my sister’s too).”
Kidney issues began to simmer quietly in the background when mea- sles, followed by pneumonia, struck Alice at age 3. “Apparently this scarred the kidneys, and everything after that was a cumulative effect,” Alice said, noting her kidney problems continued to decline from then on. “Measles struck me before there was an inoculation available to prevent it,” Alice explained. “My case is an example of why it’s so important for children to be vaccinated.”
In 2002, after years of fatigue and no clue yet that anything was wrong with her kidneys, Alice was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney failure. Both kidneys were functioning below a 20 percent level. “Most of my life, I was unable to do a lot of things that other people could do. I had no stamina,” Alice said. “Looking back, the on- going fatigue was the only symptom that something more serious might be wrong. Routine lab work revealed it.”
To be eligible for the kidney transplant list, Alice had to go through a series of tests to determine her overall health and to assure she was willing to carry out the lifetime regime necessary to maintain her renewed health.
Finding out that she was accepted to be on the transplant list was the best Christmas present Alice received last year. “I got the call on Christmas Eve after going through months of testing prior to that,” Alice said.
The search was on for a live donor. While several family members were willing to be tested and had filled out paperwork, testing early in 2016 re- vealed that Kathy was a match. “It was overwhelming news,” Alice said.
“I remember receiving the call while I was at work,” Kathy said. “I told two of my co-workers, and we hugged and cried at the same time. I was emo- tional for a couple of reasons — hope and fear.”
But all fears aside, Kathy knew it was the right thing to do.
MESSAGE FROM AN ANGEL
Alice says she had some reservations when the reality hit that surgery could proceed. A stranger she refers to as an angel intercepted.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to go through with the surgery and subject my sister to it,” Alice said. “She and I were discussing it in the hospital waiting area, when a man sitting nearby overheard us. He was wearing a face mask, using a walker, and was relatively young. He asked me what surgery I needed. When I told him, he looked at me and said he was six weeks out from a liver transplant — and that when he woke up from surgery he felt better than he had in years. He told me to have the surgery and that God would bless me, repeating it as he walked to the door to leave. Then he turned and looked at me again and repeated, “God will bless you.”
Alice said she thought about it on the drive home where she picked up a booklet given to her as a gift. “A Bible verse in it struck me. It was Hebrews 1:14 and it read, ‘God has assigned His angels to assist, support and help me.’ She concluded the stranger had been the angel. “A peace came over me,” Alice said. “Then Kathy called and I told her what happened. We both went into the operating room with peace in our hearts and smiles on our faces.”
Surgery was about the same length of time for each of them. And the hospital stay was just a couple of days longer for Alice. “We were on the same floor but in different rooms and a ways apart. Kathy was able to be wheeled by an aide to visit me. It was wonderful,” Alice said.
“It’s funny because Alice refers to her new kidney as if it is still mine,” Kathy said. “I remind her that it’s no longer mine, it’s hers! That’s what giv- ing is all about.”
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