Living Proof: Saving a stranger’s life through living organ donation

If you could save the life of a person you just met, would you?

Doing Good - Kidney Donor

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - When Kevin Hill walked into Rooms To Go, he was shopping for a mattress. He didn’t know that he was going to end up with a kidney, that would save his life.

His was in pain, mentally and physically. His body was being kept alive through dialysis, but his heart and spirit were struggling.

“I was depressed, I was not able to work, I had to do that (dialysis) 3 days a week for 3-4 hours a day,” says Kevin. “I walked into rooms to go and my feet were so swollen it was untying my shoes.”

He was shopping for a new mattress to try to alleviate some of the pain, when he met Jeff Hartley, who just happened to be working greeting customers at Rooms To Go that day.

“I sell furniture for a living. So many times when you talk to people about furniture, you get to know a little bit about them,” explains Jeff. “He opened up and shared with me that he was in failing health. That his kidneys were going and that he basically had to stay on dialysis to live.”

Choking back tears, Jeff explains that it was in that moment that God put it on his heart to help a stranger.

“When he shared with me what he was going through. I could see that he was dying. And I couldn’t stand idly by and watch. I felt a question rising up in my spirit that asked “if I could do something to save this man’s life, would I?” says Jeff tearfully.

Kevin went home that day with his new mattress. Jeff went home with a new purpose.

He explained to his supportive and loving wife Lani that he felt called to literally give a piece of himself to help a man he met only a few hours earlier.

“She suggested that we talk about it and seek God on it, and we did. With her support we chased after this,” explains Jeff.

That’s what they did, and while looking for direction and answers, Kevin happened to come back to the store, again on a day with Jeff was working to greet customers. That’s when he knew God had sent an answer.

“It was definitely a God thing. He intended for this to happen,” says Jeff.

He didn’t say anything to Kevin, but instead called UAB and let them know he wanted to donate a kidney to Kevin. The next time Kevin went in for dialysis, an alert went off. Worried, he asked the doctors what it meant.

“He said, that’s an alarm to alert us that you have someone that wants to donate a kidney to you,” Jeff explains quietly. “I had no idea who it could be.”

A few days later, he got a phone call, and an answer.

“He said this is Jeff from Rooms To Go. I was thinking in my mind ‘I don’t need any more furniture, I already bought.’ He started telling me that he had called UAB and was interested in being a donor,” says Kevin. “I dropped the phone and immediately started crying.”

After a lot of tests, the two men not only became good friends. They also found out they were a perfect match for a living organ transplant.

“I don’t know how much more perfect I could get,” says Kevin.

The surgery was January 16th, and was a complete success. So was the healing process.

“The advances they have made in medical procedures have made it so that I could donate and still have a healthy life,” says Jeff. “I was able to donate and be back at work in two weeks.”

Kevin says for him, not only is the pain gone, but he has his life back, both physically and mentally. “I feel great. The quality of life that I have now is so much better. I can finally get back to things that I do, and do well. I can finally work again. I can finally be a Dad again.”

In fact, he’s asked Jeff and his wife Lani to be the Godparents for his young daughter.

“I have a little 18 month old daughter. That’s one of the most powerful things, Jeff gave me the ability to be around for her,” says Kevin.

The experience, ignited a passion in Jeff to try to connect others who are willing to be living organ donors.

“The passion that I had for helping Kevin, God has changed it into a desire to help and advocate for those who are in need of a kidney. There are so many people facing this situation and have no idea what to do,” says Jeff. “God has put it on my heart to get the word out about the need but also to connect people.”

Right now, there are over 100,00 people waiting for a kidney donation, and every month 3,000 people are added to that list.

He is working tirelessly to share the experience and inspire others to consider saving a life too.

“It was a huge blessing to us to be a part of this. God has used it in our lives,” says Jeff. “So many times in my life when I have had the opportunity to give, I learned that you get so much more back, and that has been the situation in this case.”

Kevin knows many people on that list who are still waiting for a kidney. He got to know them through their time on treatments. Some have undergone dialysis for 12 years, and are still waiting for a transplant. The fact that he got one when they didn’t, is something he still struggles to understand.

“I can’t wrap my head around it, I still don’t know how it happened. All I can say is God put Jeff and I together. I still struggle to find the right words to tell Jeff Thank you,” Kevin says tearfully. “I love you brother. I couldn’t have done this without you. Thanks for being such an ambassador for people like me who need a kidney.”

If you are interested in living organ donation, you can find out more through UAB’s living donor program.

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