Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | March 1, 2011

Listen to the Whisper

Just over three years ago I donated a kidney. Dean is my recipient and he lives in Phoenix, AZ. I got to know Dean through work – I was coordinating the National Walk for PKD and he was one of our walk coordinators (still is.)

Whenever this subject comes up, people want to know how it came about, if we are amazing life-long friends… I guess people expect a dramatic movie script; something amazing that led me to him and inspired me to donate a body part.  And though I do love to tell a good story, sometimes I think the story I tell on this one disappoints.

From the first time I met him, I liked Dean. He is a great guy, living a cool life, and he was fun to work with. But to be honest, we did not have some magical connection that put all other connections I had with the volunteers I worked with to shame.

It all came about like this – I had been in town for a meeting, he was driving me to the airport and mentioned he was looking for a donor. His partner’s sister was being tested and it looked like she may be his match. This was the first I had heard that his kidney functioning had dropped enough that this was warranted. To see him, you’d never imagine that this young, good-looking, fit man was fighting for his life. Kidney disease is tricky that way – especially Polycystic Kidney Disease.

It was a simple moment. I just thought, “she’s not going to be approved, and I think I it’s supposed to be me.” I didn’t say anything then. We arrived at the airport and I flew home. When I got home, I told my husband about it and he just smiled and said, “I think that’s awesome, honey. Whatever you want to do, I’ll support it.” He was used to supporting a lot of crazy stuff with me, I guess.

A week later I emailed Dean and asked how it was going. He said she had been kicked out in the final round of tests, so his search was back on. I replied that I’d like to be tested. Next was a phone call to his transplant coordinator, then a blood test, then a week in Phoenix for full tests, then – Thanksgiving week – I got the phone call that said I was a match. January 2008 I flew to Phoenix and checked into Mayo and donated a kidney. A week later I flew home.

Three years later, I’m healthier than maybe I have ever been, I’ve had another baby, I go to work, I sing at church, and life goes on as normal. Well, as normal as MY wacky life can be. I don’t really think about it much. It was just a thing I did once.

But, I am guessing, things are different for Dean. He just spent three weeks in the hospital because of cysts bursts and an infection from his native kidneys. They’ll likely be removed later this year. Thankfully, my kidney – his now – is doing great. His sister is in need of a transplant and searching for a donor. He still lives with this every day. I am not sure where he’d be if I’d dismissed that casual thought, or not sent that email asking how he was doing. I’m not sure he’d be here at all. And what a hole that would leave in so many people’s lives. Visit him in Phoenix, meet his friends, hear how they talk about him and you’ll know.

What I did was really not a big deal in my life at all. I just listened to the voice that said “do it” and then took a few weeks of paid time off. The only lasting thing for me is a few small scars on my stomach and a keener ear for the voice in my head that sometimes suggests I do something kind. For me, I believe it is the voice of God, whispering in my ear, giving me an opportunity to be used by Him for something grander than I could ever manufacture on my own.

Sometimes I ignore the whisper. I am sure that sometimes I am making far too much of my own noise to hear it at all. But when I can shut out my voice and listen to His, wow, what a blessing.

Not everyone is called to donate a kidney, but everyone is called to do something. Everyone has a unique and special thing to throw out into the world and far too many of us ignore that inner voice and miss the opportunity.

What is He whispering in your ear today? Will you listen and say YES?

FOOTNOTE: March is National Kidney Awareness Month. If you are thinking about becoming a kidney donor – if you’ve heard that whisper – please say YES.



  1. Wow…that is a good one honey!

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