Please help me. My dear friend Lisa in in Stage 5 (end stage) kidney failure. If you know Lisa, which many of you do, please comment about what you love about her. She is an ANGEL who has dedicated her life to helping provide the BEST education for our Gold Star Children of fallen Special Operators. She is the heart and soul of Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), a four-star charity, that has COMMITTED to providing FULL college education, including room and board I believe, to ALL of our Gold Star Special Ops kiddos to ANY college they get accepted to, which is a huge commitment given how many surviving kiddos there are from the Global War on Terror, our nation’s longest war.
In addition, they provide special pre-k educational support and tutoring support for K-12 to help our children have the BEST educational experience to help them thrive in the wake of their traumatic losses and the challenge of being raised by a solo parent. In particular, she put in place substantial tutoring for my daughter in 2021 when we were struggling with educational deficits from the pandemic. The tutoring was a lifesaver for Stella and me. They actually provided tutoring for both of my kids, but for Stella it was absolutely essential and I could not have afforded it on my own.
I would donate a kidney to save Lisa’s life if I could. However, in 2020 I learned my beautiful and faithful friend Maria (pictured above with me) was ALSO in Stage 5 Kidney Failure. I had reached out to Maria about Mary Kay of all things and when Maria called me and said she was in the hospital, I got the news and said, I wonder if I am a match. I will never forget where I was in that moment. I was standing in my daughter’s bedroom trying to get a cat that refused to come out from under Stella’s bed. Maria did not want to ask me, or anyone, to go through the arduous process and donate an organ to her. She is so selfless. But I just had to know. Was I a match? Could I help? Maria gave me the name and email or her living donor coordinator and I reached out to begin the process in September of 2020.
A lot of tests were done. I thought about it and talked to friends and family about it. Family very dear to me were dead set against it. I prayed about it. I felt an overwhelming peace and joy throughout this process. I KNEW if I were to be a match it was meant to be. It was God’s will. My family was against it because they feared I would lose my life and orphan my children who have ALREADY lost their father. I get it. I respect it. Here is the thing though. I do not let fear drive. The Bible says perfect love casts out fear. The love I felt in my heart at the thought of being blessed with the opportunity to save someone who I respected and loved, to allow her husband and family to continue to have her in this world, was indescribable.
As Liz Gilbert wrote, fear is ALWAYS welcome to sit in my car, to be a passenger, as it should because it is here for a reason. It has its place. It takes its job very seriously. But fear will NEVER be in the driver’s seat. Fear will NEVER get to make my decisions. Fear will NEVER put its hands on the steering wheel or even change the volume of the music. On the contrary, God is in the driver’s seat of “my car” and I am the front seat passenger, enjoying the adventures, the thrill of life and the wind in my hair.
Some of you know about this part of my life journey and some of you don’t. The reason I have not shared it more is because we are not meant to share for earthly glory what we GET to do for God’s plan. It was a gift to me, this experience. It has been arguably the MOST significant thing I have done so far with my life. It was an honor to be part of it. I am forever a part of Maria and we have an eternal bond from this process.
I know there are times and reasons things need to be shared, not for glory, not to make you think I am some really great person, I am okay most days, but I have been plenty selfish and made lots of mistakes and poor choices in my life. So don’t get me wrong. But I need to share this story now with you for Lisa. Because I need help. I need you. I need you to see if you are a match. If you are willing and interested to be part of a miracle. Donating my kidney to Maria was one of the BEST decisions of my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat. If I had an extra kidney I would donate to Lisa as well.
I will not tell you it is an easy process. I cannot guarantee you an outcome for you OR Lisa. With major surgery, nothing is ever guaranteed. I will, however, answer absolutely ANY questions you have about the process from my experience. I cannot guarantee your experience will be the same, but I can give you a lot of information to help you understand and know anything that may give you hesitation.
Here is what I MOST want you to know: A person needing a kidney cannot get on the transplant list until they hit stage 5. For awhile, Lisa was STUCK in stage 4, which is so heartbreaking to think she literally had to get SICKER to get on a list to help her get better. Nonetheless she is in stage 5 now and is on the transplant list. She is SO dearly loved that many have already sought to see if they are a match, but no luck so far.
I want you to know that once a person is on the list to get a transplant, it takes an average of 3 to 7 years to find a deceased donor kidney for them. Many do not live that long. If Lisa survives long enough to get a deceased organ, the life longevity gained by that organ is HALF as long as a living donor organ. In Maria’s case, I was told if she was lucky enough to survive long enough to get a deceased donor kidney, she may live an extra 5-10 years. With my kidney, on the contrary, she could live 10-20 years or more.
If people only knew. It BREAKS my heart how many selfless Veterans and First Responders take their own lives every single day in this country, many of whom are organ donors, and probably have no idea that their deceased organs are only half as effective as if they were to donate an organ as a living donor. As painful as this is to say, I wish they would be a living donor first. Not only would they help save lives, cut down on the transplant waiting list, and expand life longevity for transplant recipients, but I believe with my WHOLE heart that many of these Veterans and First Responders who are in SO much pain, may be so transformed by the process of saving a life in this way, this extraordinary journey, that they would have a renewed will to live and it would in turn be able to save THEIR life. People NEED a purpose for their pain. I know this firsthand. I know about TBI’s and more, and I know we cannot save everyone, but I know we SHOULD save every one we can!
Please help me help Lisa. Please find out if you are a match. PM me if you are willing to try. Ask me ANY questions you have. Maria and I are 24 months out from our surgeries. Our surgeries were in operating rooms next to one another on March 8, 2021. The picture above is of Maria and I post-op on the day of our surgeries. She is doing better health wise than she has in YEARS. I am doing well too. My one little kidney that could is functioning more than many people with two kidneys function. It is something only God can take credit for. It was a miracle. I was so blessed to be part of it.
If you want to be part of a miracle and help save Lisa’s life, please PM me. Her living donor program is Tampa General, Tampa, Florida. But you do NOT have to be there. You can be anywhere in the country. You can go through the matching process where you are. You can have the surgery where you are and the organ can be transported to Lisa. The whole process is covered cost-wise, it is at no financial cost to you as the donor. After donating an organ, living donors go on a list. Should my one kidney ever fail, I will go to the top of the transplant list to get a transplant much quicker than non-donors. I cannot tell anyone what to do with their body. I understand if you are not comfortable with this or for ANY reason do not want to do this; all I can say is I BELIEVE that the ONE person who is meant to help facilitate this miracle for God and Lisa will come forward. God has a plan. Lisa is an angel. SOWF needs her. Our Gold Star children need her.
I also want to take a moment to thank EVERY single Tunnel to Towers supporter, volunteer, staff, and “do-gooder” for helping facilitate the miracle of my journey with Maria. I wholeheartedly believe that if NOT for the glory of God shown to me by the Siller Family and Tunnel to Towers reaching out to me and changing our lives, I would not have had the courage to abstain from fear and go through this journey with Maria. For that, I thank you. The process of being a living donor was PROFOUNDLY life-giving for me.
The last thing I want to say is this: If you cannot or do not want to see if you are a match, there are OTHER ways you can help us facilitate this miracle: If you are a praying person, please pray for Lisa. Please pray for the right person who is meant to do this to have the courage to cast out any fear. Please pray for restored health for Lisa and successful outcomes of this situation in all the ways. Also, please share with someone about the living donor programs in our country. Ask someone if they know that deceased donor organs are only half as effective in terms of life longevity. Ask them to pray.