Kindness in a Kidney

What’s the furthest you would go for kindness? Do you even know? Maybe you’ll give your time, but not your money. Maybe you’ll give your money, but not your time. Maybe you’ll give your time and money as long as you don’t have to sacrifice your personal comfort.

It’s humbling to realize our limitations, both the tangible ones and the ones we create in our minds.

Jeff Ficek has been dealing with a very real impediment. When he was 18, he was diagnosed with a type of arthritis that affects the lower back and hips. The medication that for years allowed him to live with a high quality of life came at a high price. It killed his kidneys. This past fall, Jeff’s kidney function was down to 10-12 percent. He was tiring quickly, retaining water and in desperate need of a transplant.

Jeff’s siblings, family members and some close friends were tested, but none of them came up as a match.

Then one day Jeff was out golfing. They say a lot gets done on the golf course, and this particular day was proof. That was the day Jeremy Gregoire, a fellow golfer, found out Jeff needed a kidney.

“We were out golfing, Jeff, myself and two others. As we were walking down the fairway, I casually asked Jeff how his health was going. He said nothing had really changed, but didn’t make a big deal of it. Then a couple holes later, a friend said Jeff’s not doing as well as he’s letting on. That friend tried to donate a kidney, but wasn’t a match, so I thought I’d call and see if I could get tested.”

Jeremy ended up going to nearly a dozen appointments to determine if he was physically, emotionally and financially healthy enough to go through with the surgery.

“I didn’t know it would be so complicated, but I went in thinking, ‘If Jeff needs a kidney and I have one, why not?’ ”

Even as a person who loves kindness, I could think of a lot of reasons why I wouldn’t want my husband to donate a kidney, but Jeremy’s wife supported his decision.

She was right next to him on Dec. 21 when they told Jeff the good news: Jeremy was a match.

Jeff says it’s a day he’ll never forget.

“I was home sick that day. Jeremy said his wife was baking Christmas cookies and asked if they could stop by. Heidi and Jeremy came over at about 8 p.m. We talked a bit, and then he handed me a gift bag with a can of kidney beans inside. I was a little slow on the joke until Jeremy said, ‘You and I are a match and we’re doing the surgery on January 26th.’

“It was a day that changed my life. It was an incredible moment I will never forget. I’m so excited about the additional bond that we now have. His gift of life is changing my life. There was a lot of uncertainty in my life and it’s something I’ll forever be grateful for. It’s just so awesome. My outlook on life is usually as a realist, but when you get a gift like that, you can’t help but be excited about the future.”

Both men are recovering well from the surgery and are back at work. While Jeff and Jeremy’s lives have certainly been changed by this act of selflessness, I’m certain the friends and family who got to watch from the sidelines are also reconsidering their boundaries when it comes to kindness. In fact, Jeremy told me several of his friends have already offered to give up their kidneys in the future if he ever finds himself one short.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Leave a Reply