Written by Tony Bridwell, Living Kidney Donor
There comes a point in each of our lives where we come face-to-face with life changing moments. For some there are several moments; for others maybe just one moment in time where the decision has life altering implications.
For me, there is one moment in time that stands out beyond all others. A decision, I would later understand, with such a ripple effect the impact went well beyond just me.
My Life is Ordinary
My life, as a whole, is not that much different than many. Faith, family, and friends along with a career developing people tend to fill my life with endless adventures. In 2011, while attending a Men’s retreat with my best friend I made a decision that on the surface seemed simple at best.
The group of men was challenged to pray and fast one day a week for 30 days. What seemed like an insignificant moment evolved into a life changing decision. It was from this simple request, 40 days later, that I found myself having dinner with my friend and neighbor, Shannon Hamilton.
Shannon and our families have been friends for over 20 years, and in 2011 were also neighbors in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, Texas. We had known for several years that Shannon had been on dialysis for failing kidneys. Over dinner we were delighted to discover Shannon had recently been placed on the donors list for a new kidney.
When I inquired as to how long the wait would be he replied, 3-5 years based on his blood type. As a registered organ donor I came face to face at that very moment with the importance of being a donor. With just enough knowledge of dialysis to understand the process has a diminishing return I realized Shannon’s health would be in a compromised state in 3-5 years.
If it's God's Will
The memory of what happened next is as clear today as it was that April day in 2011. When I inquired what additional options were available to him he said, “If I go into renal failure I could move up the list or I would need a living donor.”
With zero hesitation I asked what was required for me to find out if I was a match to which Jeanann, Shannon’s wife, immediately protested the idea saying that is too much to ask and they couldn’t let me do that. Without much thought, I responded, “If it’s God’s will there is not much you can do about it.”
Four weeks later Shannon, Jeanann, and myself were sitting in the blood donor chairs at Baylor Hospital. One week after that, while visiting a client, I received a call that wasrouted to my voicemail. At the first break I listened to the voicemail in the lobby of my client’s office. Those in close proximity to me witnessed the tears of joy stream down my face as I listen to the transplant team nurse confirm I was a perfect match for Shannon.
Another month later, at the end of a two-day health review and physical from a team of doctors, nurses, and counselors, I sat in the office of transplant surgeon Dr. Nicolas Onaca. After thumbing through a two inch file prepared on me over the course of two days he calmly proclaims I am not only a perfect match but also a perfect candidate for donation. The transplant board later that week confirmed the recommendation and a date was set for our transplant surgery.
Just like that, with 30 days of being put on the list Shannon had a match. November 10th at 5 am, just 7 short months from our dinner celebrating Shannon being put on the list, we both sat in the waiting area at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas waiting to go back for surgery. Five hours later Shannon had three kidneys and I had one.
Going All In
In less than a year I found myself given the opportunity to share life with someone else. All from a simple decision to pray and fast. Yet the rest of the story needs to be told. My decision to pray and fast came with a declaration that I jotted down in the front cover of my journal. My declaration was regardless of what lie ahead my desire was to be faithful and All In!
From that total surrender of will and willingness to be all in I understood, without hesitation, that night at dinner what I was to do. The peace, joy, and love that both Shannon and I have experienced has been remarkable. Shannon’s health continues to get better each day. Mine has been without issue from the moment I awoke from surgery.
So here is the point. Only a few of us in the world have a close friend who is in need of a transplant. So, being a living donor is not part of most of our bigger plans. However, all of us have the ability to impact a life in a positive way by being All In.
Each day we have the ability to outlive ourselves by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves through simple acts of kindness. Two that come to mind immediately are giving blood and becoming an organ donor. The examples however are limitless.
Where do you begin? That is easy. Take a moment to make the simple decision to pray the All In prayer. When you do be ready for a life changing experience to outlive yourself.
Looking for related stories?
Did you know you don't have to be deceased to be a donor? Read 9 Facts You Need to Know and Share About Organ Donation
Meet Tony Bridwell
Tony Bridwell is Chief People Officer for Brinker International. Tony studied architecture, theology and business at Oklahoma State University, Mid-America Christian University and Dallas Baptist University, respectively. He authored the book, “The Difference Maker: A Simple Fable About Making a Difference in the Life of Others.” A native Oklahoman, Tony resides in downtown Dallas, Texas with his wife, Dee, and together they have three children. In addition to being a husband and father, Tony is an active member of his church, where he serves as a deacon and leadership mentor.