Organ donors witness to grace
BY MELISSA LAUBER
Every day in the United States 19 people die waiting for organ transplants that can’t take place because of a shortage of donors.
Jim Youker, of Glen Mar UMC in Ellicott City, didn’t know this fact when he roamed the floor of the ICU unit at Sinai Hospital, his heart heavy with fears for his 23-year-old daughter as doctors tried unsuccessfully to correct the damage to her brain caused by an aneurysm.
In his anguish, he reached out to his church family by e-mail, crying out so that God’s grace might somehow prevail.
Life seemed unaccountably cruel waiting by her bedside.
“But somehow, no matter what happens I know God is in control and whatever happens, so it shall be. He has my undivided attention,” Youker wrote on June 19 at 1:21 a.m.
He held his daughter’s hand as he looked down on “her swollen face, and bald headed shell of body waiting to expire,” and prayed. “I can’t wait to see what God has planned as a result of that precious life he lent us 23 years ago,” he wrote later that day.
Youker felt like “Abraham sacrificing Isaac on the altar. But for me,” he said, “there was no word from an angel of the Lord sparing her life.”
On June 22, Youker wrote, inviting his fellow church members to a service of life and resurrection. “This will be a witness to the glory of God’s power and might in the life he loaned us through Bethany,” he wrote.
Bethany’s legacy is one of joy and light, embracing the fullness of each moment. Not wishing to contain their daughter’s generosity, Youker and his wife Marla made sure Bethany’s organs were donated so that others might live.
Bethany’s heart, liver, pancreas and kidney were donated. She brought new life to a mother with three children, a father of one daughter who retired from sales and marketing, a divorced woman who worked in the IT field and loves to travel and read, a woman from the Midwest who moved to Maryland to be closer to her family, a single man who worked in the automotive and construction fields and a woman on the Northeast coast who is expecting her first grandchild.
The in-house coordinator at Sinai Hospital for the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland wrote to the Youkers. “It is because of families such as yours, who remain thoughtful in the midst of tremendous grief, that others are given a second chance at life. … Bethany’s desire to give to others truly made a difference in the lives of many suffering individuals and the people who love them.”
“We are all given the gift of life through our parents. To be able to unselfishly give the gift of continued life to others is the most Christ-like thing I can think of,” Youker concluded.
Lee Adams’ experience as a living organ donor was very different, but she also experienced God in the midst of the experience.
A member of Harmony UMC in Falling Waters, W.Va., Adams donated a kidney to her sister’s husband in 2007. Her experiences led her to raise money for the University of Maryland’s Living Organ Donor Clinic. The funds assist donors financially with after-surgery care by specialists.
An executive with the Broken Bow record label in Nashville, she brought in country music stars to perform in concert at the church. The first year, she raised $5,000, the next she topped $9,000 and this year’s concert in August brought in about $9,500.
The concert featured performers Megan Mullins and James Wesley, who donated their time and talents because of Adam’s enthusiasm for the cause.
When her brother-in-law David calls to let her know he is swimming in the ocean with his kids, something he would never have been able to experience without her kidney, Adams knows she made the right decision. But it wasn’t an easy one.
She was tested to see if she was a compatible match, not really expecting to be so. “I just wanted to do the right thing, get a pat on the head and not really have to deal with it,” Adams confessed. “But fast forward, I was a match.”
It’s important to Adams that people be honest and authentic about their reservations and the implications of living organ donation. “You have to be able to handle the worst-case scenario. What if the recipient dies or rejects your organ? What if you get sick later? We can all handle the perfect case scenario,” she said. “My recommendation is to pray to see what God wants you to do.”
Adams admits that when you’re a healthy person, hesitating to assist someone who is ill can make you feel guilty. But the seriousness of the decision requires careful and prayerful considering.
Going through the decision making process, Adams found herself struggling with her pragmatic nature, wanting concrete answers. She is, she said, a Martha-type of woman, (like the sister in Luke 10) who was called to a Mary-type of response, having to be still and listen for God, rather than making things happen and getting things done.
She reflected on Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” In her stillness she became convinced that being a donor was God’s will for her.
Adams wrote a book about her decision and how it was made called “Donor Girl.” Like her fundraising, it feels like a ministry. “I’ll be the first to admit that my halo has dents,” she said. “But I love God. I trust in God. God made me the way I am. All I do is keep trying.”
Youker and his family are also trying as they begin to shape their lives around Bethany’s absence. “In our eyes Bethany is not dead,” her father said. “Her spirit, and God’s spirit, is in the lives of others.”
Make the connection
Currently, 108,486 people in the United States are on waiting lists for transplanted organs.
The United Methodist Church “encourages all Christians to become organ and tissue donors by signing and carrying cards or driver’s licenses, attesting to their commitment of such organs upon their death, to those in need, as part of their ministry to others in the name of Christ, who gave up his life that we might have life in its fullness.” – Book of Resolutions
To contribute to the Living Organ Donor Clinic, send your gift to Harmony UMC, 9455 Williamsport Pike, Falling Waters, WV 25419.
To read a copy of Donor Girl, which chronicles Lee Adams’ story, visit www.amazon.com.
Three songs from Broken Bow Records that Lee Adams recommends for churches:That’s What I Love About Sunday – Craig Morgan
Almost Home – Craig Morgan
Good to Go – Jason Aldean