Thanksgiving for heroes
Man gives kidney to father-in-law, encourages others to donate
By Teri Snowden
This is a story about gratitude for a gift given by a hero. The characters in this story are Sam “Taylor” Waters, 32, and Randy Jones, 63.
Randy Jones is married to my sister, Darla Gee Jones, and they have two daughters, Randi, who is married to Sam Waters, and Kristin; a son, Freddy; and six grandchildren. He is the son of Freddy Jones and the late Dorothy Redfearn Erwin, both from Aubrey, and owns Jones Construction. He is a lifelong resident of Aubrey.
Randy is one of those guys that attaches a winch to his truck to help stranded motorists in an ice storm. He loves hanging out in the roping pen and taking his pontoon boat out on the lake to fish. Randy has a slow, southern drawl and an easy manner that draw people to him. He is country to the core.
Sam Waters (some call him Taylor, but for the sake of this story, we’re calling him Sam) graduated from Eastland High School in 2006 and married Randi, in 2016. They live in Eastland and have three sons.
He is the epitome of a family man and loves nothing more than spending time with his wife and sons, whether it be at the arcade,
carving pumpkins or shooting potatoes out of a tube and into the lake. Sam exudes love and affection, has a contagious laugh, and is truly one of the good guys of today.
Now you’ve been introduced to these two men, here’s their story.
Randy began battling high blood pressure when he was in his 20s and as he aged, it silently damaged his kidneys. In April, routine bloodwork revealed a potential problem. Although he was asymptomatic, he was referred to a nephrologist in Plano.
Additional tests were performed, and he was told he was in Stage 4 kidney failure. His kidneys were working at 16% and declining, and soon would be too damaged to keep him alive.
He was given two options: dialysis treatments for three days a week/four hours at a time, or a kidney transplant. The dialysis would tremendously limit his active lifestyle, so they were referred to Dallas Medical City Transplant Institute for consultation.
In Dallas, they learned over 100,000 people were on the waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor, and the average wait time was five years for such a match with Randy’s Type O positive blood.
A living donor seemed to be the best solution, but Randy is a proud man who would never ask a family member or a friend to consider donating a kidney to him. This is when my sister turned to social media in a desperate plea for help for “a man with a huge heart that has always been a giver, not a receiver.”
The plea was difficult for her to write and very uncomfortable for Randy to see posted. They were totally unprepared for the number of responses from friends and family. Despite the number of volunteers, the transplant center would only process three living donor applicants at a time.
In the meantime, Randy’s kidney function continued to decline at an alarming rate. He was running out of time.
The first three to test were Randy’s sister, Kristin and Sam. To everyone’s amazement, two of the first three fit the preliminary criteria for a donor. Testing continued for cross-matching, and Sam was a perfect match.
“I wanted to do what I could to help,” Sam said. “Randy and Darla have always been there for us in times of need, and I just felt like this was the right thing to do.”
He wanted to help, not so he would be called a hero, but so he could “do something good with [his] life and do what [he believes] in: helping someone in need.”
“I believe God had this planned for my life. I had my worries, trust me, but overall, I was not willing to not do this. It was my calling to help serve a brother in Christ who also happens to be my father-in-law…,” Sam said. “Randy would do the same for any of us, and he has done countless acts of good for many people.”
Sam and Randy underwent many tests that spanned several months to ensure they were healthy and compatible enough to be a donor and a recipient.
However, the hero in this story is also human. He had worries not only for himself but also for Randy, who by this time was experiencing swelling and extreme fatigue.
He also had concerns about his job as a driver/operator with Flying A Pumping Services out of Albany, Texas. Working in the volatile oilfield industry has been rough for the past year. Taking time off from work was a major stress and caused a lot of anxiety for Sam.
“I worked and tried to get as many hours as I could before the operation to help with my downtime and cover being out. I worked a lot of late days as much as I could,” he said. “My work can be very demanding. With everything going on [in the oilfield industry] and our transplant coming up, I felt drained every day, physically and mentally.”
Becoming a “one-kidney man” frightened him, but he learned living donors were automatically placed on the donor recipient list if ever in need of an organ.
That eased his anxieties to a great degree.
“My mind was constantly moving, and [I was] thinking of every outcome that could possibly happen,” he said. “But prayer is a powerful thing, and I prayed constantly for this and for God to help with my decision.”
Oct. 27 at 6:16 am—Sam’s wife, Randi, posted on social media:
“Today’s the big day. My selfless, handsome husband is donating his kidney to my dad … only God could line up everything perfectly. I’m excited for my dad to finally feel better than he has in years, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. The two most important men of my life are going into surgery basically at the same time. Y’all, the love of my life is giving my dad the gift of life. It’s mind-blowing.”
The new kidney started functioning quickly after being connected to Randy’s body. Sam was released to go home the following day, sore and minus a few pounds.
Randy stayed in ICU until late Thursday afternoon and was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon. He came home with 37 pills, including anti-rejection medications, and instructions to live life in quarantine as his immune system was intentionally “killed” while his body accepted the new kidney.
His blood pressure is better than it has been in years, and his new kidney, Sam’s kidney, is working great.
Thankfulness is described as a feeling of gratitude or appreciation – of being aware of and appreciative of a benefit or gift.
Darla posted about how thankful she was, too, for their family, friends and church families.
Sam expressed his gratitude for Randi’s support. He also commended the Facebook group “Living Kidney Donors” and its 6,000-plus members for the support and information they provided.
“They are a great bunch of people of all ages that helped with many questions I had,” he said. “They all have stories that are just amazing, and I was very blessed to find the group. If you want to donate [an organ], I encourage [you] to join.”
Sam chronicled his journey as a kidney donor on Facebook, complete with photos of the kidney that was donated and a warning for those with weak stomachs to look away.
He says he has learned a lot from the experience, including the fact that our bodies and technology in the medical field are both, as he says, amazing.
Sam hopes sharing his journey will inspire others to consider becoming a living donor.
“I encourage others to donate. It is a great feeling and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save another life. To see and be a part of this miracle happening is just amazing,” he said.
If you find it in your heart to offer a gift of life to someone in need, please visit MedicalCityHospital.com/LivingDonor or another transplant center and learn more about becoming a living donor. You will find a large amount of information and educational videos on these websites as well as an application to submit as a potential donor.
Candidates who may need a kidney transplant must first complete a transplant application. Most patients with kidney disease are referred to a transplant center. Many others choose to initiate the transplant process themselves by downloading the application or calling the transplant center.
Last year, more than 7,300 people became living organ donors. According to the National Foundation for Transplants, 109,000 patients are currently on the transplant waiting list, of which 95% need a kidney or liver. As of writing this, there are 747,000 Americans facing end-stage renal disease and 524,000 are on dialysis.