william-storyBuffalo News- MY VIEW

by William Thomas
As reported by The Buffalo News
November 22, 2009

I was like you. I thought it would be nice to donate a kidney. But I was too busy, and besides, what if one of my kids needed it someday — what if I needed both? It’s better to let other people donate instead of me. I just don’t have the time.

One night, I watched a TV special about altruistic donors. I never realized how many people were dying while waiting for a broken system to work for them. So the next morning, I got on their Web site to see what it was all about. I was impressed with how organized the Web site was and I was blinded by the shear number of people — real people, like you and me — pouring out their last hope.

Before that day, these people were just a part of a large number. They represented a percentage of Americans. A number and a percentage that I had no connection to. I didn’t know anyone on dialysis and I’ve never known anyone who needed a transplant. I guess you could say God sheltered me from that trauma.

But something happened when I saw the people’s faces, read their stories, listened to their kids and parents. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like they became real to me. A transition was made from being a number to a real live person. These people, who were dying and scared and just wanting to live, were reaching out for help.

It didn’t take much thinking on my part before all my questions were answered. I could no longer rely on the “what if” factor as an excuse to keep me from saving a person’s life. No longer could I sit back and consider these people as unknowns. I realized that waiting for a family member to develop kidney disease was negative thinking. There were already people who needed one of my kidneys, and just because they are not related to me, doesn’t mean they deserve to die. So God took control and I contacted Paul.

I was not surprised when we found out we’re a perfect match. I wasn’t surprised how my own family tried talking me out of it. I wasn’t surprised when all the tests I took were passed. I wasn’t surprised at how Paul’s family welcomed me like a hero, and opened their family to me and welcomed me as a new member. I wasn’t surprised when the surgeon told me the operation went perfect. And I wasn’t surprised to walk out of the hospital three days later.

But I was surprised at the tears in my mom’s eyes as she told me she now understands why I did what I did. I was surprised by the feeling I had as the man, now carrying my kidney, tells me he doesn’t know how to thank me properly. I was surprised at how I was able to impact so many people’s lives in so many different ways. I was surprised at my own ability to stick to it.

And most of all, I was surprised at how close my personal walk with God became. I was surprised that I got more out of this than Paul did. More than family, or a close friend — a relationship with a living God.

So I want to ask you, are you willing to save a person’s life? Are you willing to help solve a growing problem in our country? Are you ready to get surprised? Most of all, will you rise when he calls your name? There are people out there who need your help. If I could, I would do it again.

If you want to contact me, get in touch with Jeanette Ostrom at www.wnykidneyconnection.org. She is a very nice lady helping to coordinate this Web site. She is also Paul’s mom. She has my e-mail and she will give it to you. I will try my best to answer your questions.