“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ⁓ Ralph Waldo Emerson
On August 9th, my friend Kelly posted a scary blog to Facebook. I knew she had been in pain for quite some time, but I never knew the extent of it. Kelly is one of those people that you can’t help but smile around. Her hair is the brightest pink you’ve ever seen, and her soul shines even brighter.
If you chat with Kelly, you’ll leave the conversation feeling better about life, love and the human spirit.
In Kelly’s blog post, she told tales of her struggles with PKD — Polycystic Kidney Disease. She admitted that her kidney function (EFR — estimated filtration rate) had dipped down to 20, and she would soon find herself on the transplant list. One of the most positive people I know had just let on that she had been “feeling the pain of this kidney disease and these cysts growing and bursting inside for about 15 years.” How has she stayed so positive in the face of all of this adversity? That’s a question I’m not certain I have the answer to, but I knew I wanted to help.
I first met Kelly and her husband, Lex, back in 2002. I was working my dream job as Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink’s National Spokesperson. When I wasn’t convincing Warped Tour attendees to drink Yoo-hoo out of a shoe (The Shoe-Hoo) for prizes, I had random tasks such as delivering Yoo-hoo to celebrities. Lex had recently been on the popular television series, Survivor, and he listed Yoo-hoo as his favorite beverage on the show website.
I was able to get in touch with Kelly, and she invited me to their home in Santa Cruz. I set out on my six-hour journey with the Yoo-hoo truck brimming with chocolatey treats and swag. There was an instant bond formed that night when I placed an entire pallet of “chocolicious gold” into their garage. We’ve stayed close through the years. We may not talk all that often, but Kelly & Lex have always had my back and been there for me.
A few years ago, I had the biggest scare of my life. My wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had been given a prognosis that she might only live 2–3 years and surgery was not an option. (Spoiler alert — she is doing great…and always get 6 medical opinions if the first 5 opinions suck).
After seeking a few early opinions, we decided to get a biopsy (minor brain surgery). I wasn’t scared going into it, but the neurosurgeon came to meet me after surgery and said the following,
“Josh, I have some bad news, and I’m going to need you to be strong for Erica. When performing the biopsy, there was a bleed. Erica currently does not have any functionality in her left leg. This is normal, and it ‘should’ return soon — although are no guarantees. Also, the tumor is almost certainly a Grade 3 (cancerous and faster-growing than we were hoping for). We won’t know the grade until pathology does a formal review, but it appears to be a Grade 3.”
I let my guard down a couple hours later when my friend James came to visit. He saw me truly break down in the lobby of hospital lobby as I relayed what the neurosurgeon had told me. James was the right friend to show up at the right time. While I can’t recall the entire conversation, he had the words I needed. James has been in and out of hospitals his entire life and had recently endured a successful heart transplant just four months prior. He gave me strength and hope at a time when I needed it most.
While in the hospital, I vividly remember Lex calling me to offer the support I needed. I’m always a very positive person, aiming to look on the bright side of things. However, I let my guard own when Lex called and cried some grown-ass man tears while telling my biggest fears to Lex. James and Lex, along with an amazing family and countless friends helped me be positive for Erica throughout the journey. We beat that tumor and have a new lease on life.
I read Kelly’s post, and was compelled into action. My friend James was saved by an organ donor, and here I was with an opportunity to do the same for Kelly. I mean, how can you not stand up when your good friend needs help and posts something like this:
Okay, it’s official. My name is on the “I need a kidney, can I have yours?” list. This is a good thing. This is a scary thing. This is a fucking awkward thing. I think somewhere in the back of my twisted mind was the dream that looked like this: A setting like a Jerry Lewis Telethon, but all about me. Watching it on TV with all the celebrity operators answering phones ringing off the hook with promises of live kidney donors. I watch as the numbers went up and up full of potential donors. I would also like to add there was glitter and unicorns, and maybe dancing girls just for sh*ts and giggles.
My wife and I had a serious talk. She’s been through so much, and she’s still unable to work full-time. Yet, without hesitation, she passionately gave me her blessings. Have I mentioned my wife has the biggest heart of anyone I know? It’s true.
I thought odds were long that I’d be a match, but I reached out to Kelly to let her know I had her back. I wanted to be the first person to sign-up. She gave me the info to get on the list, and I began the process to see if our blood types were even the same.
Sure enough, we matched blood types! Erica and I had watched all the videos on donating a kidney, and I wasn’t daunted by the brief hospital stay and the recovery time. It was still a long shot as more testing needed to be performed; however, I needed to begin looping in my employer. I started to tell my boss about it and before we even discussed needing to be out of the office for around four weeks, he had thrown his full support my way and made sure I knew that FoxTales had my back in this. Have I mentioned I work for the greatest company? It’s true.
Feeling poked and prodded, I was scheduled for more tests. I had my blood drawn a couple more times ( Now I understand why my wife calls “them” the vampires). My urine was collected for a 24-hour period (Don’t tell my HR department that I hid pee in the office refrigerator — my wife made sure it was as sanitary and covert as possible). And last week, I spent the day at Stanford Hospital going through even more tests. The result of all of this? I’m a perfect match!
Kelly had asked for glitter and unicorns, but anyone who knows Kelly, knows that her life revolves around the San Francisco Giants. In similar fashion, I bleed all things Kansas City. I reached out to both teams to help me surprise her. There were no unicorns, but Kelly and my eyes both glittered at AT&T Ballpark.
Kelly — I’m honored to give you my kidney. I’ll protect it until you’re ready for surgery. And don’t worry, it will stay healthy with Yoo-hoo’s seven vitamins and minerals. ❤
If you’re at all inspired, please sign up to be an organ donor. 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor, but only 52% are registered. I grew up in a kind family where compassion was preached and taking care of your friends was expected. As a child, if I had two toys and a friend had none, I was expected to share. Kelly — I have an extra toy. I choose to share with you.