VERONA, Pennsylvania (BRN)-According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are currently more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a kidney transplant. On average, over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month, with tragically, 13 of those people dying each day.
In 2018, Jeff Dawson, a faithful member of Rolling Hills Church in Verona, Pennsylvania, became one of the 3,000 names added to that waiting list.
“I was diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease. They [doctors] determined at that time that my kidneys were functioning at 20 percent and declining,” said Dawson. “At that point, they [doctors] recommended that I start dialysis and start working to get on a national transplant list.”
In July of 2018, Dawson started his dialysis treatment. He first started with nightly treatments, but after six months decided to retire from his full-time job to focus solely on his health.
“Also, during that time, I attended a seminar held by the National Kidney Foundation, which was to teach you how to go about seeking a living donor. After going through the process, I kinda got…disenchanted about it, because [I’m] not a real big public person [and] didn’t know a lot of people.”
Dawson also shared that a number of his family members were not eligible for the transplant process, due to preexisting medical conditions.
“When my wife and I were at the nephrologist, he said, ‘Here’s your choices: You need to seek for dialysis and seek a kidney donor.’”
Dawson continued: “I came home, and we sat on the edge of the bed. Through some tears, I told my wife, ‘You know, I don’t care. I don’t even want to live anymore…I’m just.. I’m done.’”
The doctor told Dawson that the alternative to dialysis treatments would be to do nothing, which, in a matter of six months, could have proven to be fatal for him.
“So, we sat on that bed…we cried…and then we prayed,” shared Dawson.
Little did Dawson know that God was already in the works of answering his prayer.
“My wife and I had dinner with Pastor [Greg Drayer] and Nicole, and Pastor shared with me the fact that there were members in our church concerned about my health. He encouraged me to use the opportunity to make an announcement as to what was going on,” said Dawson.
So, one Sunday before church, Dawson did just that.
“My intent, at that time, was not so much to seek a living donor as much as it was to kind of bring some comfort to my church family. I think shortly after that, Connie approached my wife and had a conversation with her.”
Connie Kelly is a full-time teacher and a fellow member of Rolling Hills Church. She has been attending Rolling Hills ever since her cousin, Nicole Drayer – who happens to be the pastor’s wife – introduced her to the church.
“The minute I walked in the church, I really just felt at home. It’s a very special family atmosphere that we have there, and there’s a closeness to the Lord and there’s a closeness with each other,” said Kelly.
Kelly was in church the day Dawson shared his news with the congregation.
“At the end of service, a few of us had come over and [Jeff] had the cards… gave us each one, and I called.”
Kelly continued: “I just remember being curious. So, I found out what my blood type was… I think each step of the process I kept thinking, ‘Let’s just see what this brings.’ There was definitely a curiosity, and there was definitely a prompting of the Spirit.”
Kelly first inquired about being a possible donor for Dawson in the fall of 2018. During that time, she found out her blood type was a match with Jeff’s. She continued to follow her curiosity and completed some preliminary paperwork to be a kidney donor.
“It wasn’t until early spring that I actually spoke to somebody. We went through a preliminary phone interview and she said, ‘Well…you know, let’s get you tested.’”
Kelly continued on, sharing that the first day of her testing focused on measuring the functionality of her kidneys. The following day she went through a series of interviews with the head surgeon, nurses, social workers, and a psychologist.
“At that point though, I was pretty much like, ‘I’m in…if this all comes back, and they say I’m a candidate, I’m going to do this.’ So, that happened,” said Kelly.
Kelly officially heard back that she was a healthy donor match for Dawson in June 2019.
“I got a phone call and the nurse coordinator I was working with said, ‘What’s your time frame look like?’ And I said, ‘You know, I’m a teacher…it has to be July.’”
She continued: “They had one appointment in July at 5:30 in the morning, and it gave me just enough time – literally I’ve counted – four weeks between that surgery and my start date at work. So, you know…God orchestrated just such a beautiful route for this to happen.”
Since the surgery, Dawson and Kelly have had a smooth road to recovery, both physically and spiritually.
“The peace and comfort I felt throughout the whole journey…I really did not have a doubt at all that this would turn out for both of us. For me, even the pain afterward was not bad. I think we had talented, talented surgeons,” she said.
Kelly continued: “In terms of growing closer to God, I just have no doubt that He is my protector and my comforter. I just really believe He shielded me form the negative…I just felt ministered to throughout the whole journey [and] watching Him move through this…His faithfulness has just been solidified for me.”
Dawson echoed experiencing a fairly uncomplicated recovery, saying, ““Physically, for me, it’s been good. I mean if I had to rate it…I’d call it a B minus or so…and that’s only because this is going to be a life-long experience.”
He continued: “Spiritually, it’s been excellent, because now, again, I’ve learned to put my faith in God. You know, every step of the way…anything that comes up…anything that comes about now, instead of looking to me, I look to God. Where, before, I think my first impulse was, ‘What can I do?’ So, it’s changed me a lot.”
Rev. Greg Drayer, lead pastor at Rolling Hills Baptist, also weighed in on how he witnessed God work within his congregation members during this time.
“So, one of the things I saw through all of this, and something that I’ve communicated with the people of our church – before, during, and certainly after – is Ephesians 3:20—that God is able to do immeasurably more than anything that we would ask.”
Drayer continued: “I might be just praying for that one thing, but God is capable enough to do so much more than just answer that one prayer. In answering the one prayer, He’s answering five or six prayers at one time. Especially leading up to Jeff needing a new kidney…God, in His faithfulness and His goodness, brings all things together at just the right time.”
Listen to the podcast interview:
The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!