Man’s second chance in life comes from cousin’s gift –
By Patricia Beech –
When Barbara Francis learned that she had been accepted as a kidney donor for her cousin Shawn, she said, “I lost it. I cried like a baby.”
Shawn, who is quickly approaching the final stages of kidney disease, has endured nine hours of daily dialysis for three years. He was beginning to lose hope that a donor would be found. Several people had volunteered but none had made it through the testing process.
In addition to being a physical match, kidney donors must undergo a rigorous series of 64 tests, some of which are repeated, in order to qualify as a donor. Barbara was the only volunteer who made it through the entire series of tests.
She says she was shocked when UC initially notified her that she’d been rejected as a donor. She begged the hospital staff not to give up because, “there was literally nobody else who could do this for Shawn, it was now or never”.
“The doctor tried to close the case, and Barbara absolutely refused to let them do that,” says Shawn. “Our family, we’re very bold people and when we truly believe in something, giving up is not an option.”
“I’ll tell you what we did,” says Barbara. “We prayed, and we believed it was going to happen.”
The following Friday she received a phone call from the UC Medical Center. The caller told her, “I don’t know what you guys did, but we’re reversing the decision and we are scheduling your transplant surgery for Sept. 19.”
Eager to surprise Shawn with the news, Barbara called several trusted friends and family members and began planning a “Reveal Party”.
“We had decorated the Party Room at Frisch’s and filled it with green balloons, (the color representing kidney transplants and donors), when we got word that Shawn had taken a turn for the worse and had been rushed to the emergency room at Adams County.”
Barbara and the people attending the “Reveal Party” hurried to the hospital.
They filed into Shawn’s room, with Barbara entering last. “I was an emotional mess,” she says.
She presented a t-shirt to Shawn which read, “My battle is over, God found my donor”, then turning, she revealed the back of her own matching t-shirt which read, “Your battle is over, I’m your donor.”
Shawn admits he becomes emotional when he thinks about the gift his cousin is giving him.
“She is a remarkable person,” he says, pausing to draw in a long breath. “She’s giving me life, and she will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I could never repay her for what she’s doing – not ever.”
Family members believe divine intervention played a role in bringing Shawn and Barbara together.
“We grew up at the old Riverside Church on 52,” said Barbara’s sister, Lisa Blanton. “We went to church there before we became adults and went our separate ways, but somehow we all made it back to that church and it’s all come together.”
In a letter to Shawn, Barbara wrote of their faith and close ties.
“We grew up together, not only as cousins, but more like brother and sisters,” she wrote. “I remember singing together in church as small children and going to Bible Study on 5th Street with our parents, and I feel that bond we had once again – ‘Greater love hath no man then this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ – when I read that verse, I can’t help but feel deep in my heart and soul that you would do the same for me.”
Shawn agrees and says he feels blessed to have such close family ties.
“When you have someone like Barbara in your life, you don’t let go, they’re lifetime friends who would walk through high water or fire for you. Anybody who would give up an organ to give another person life is a remarkable person.”
While his three-year battle with kidney disease has taken a terrible toll on his health, he says he has grown from the experience.
“It’s made me a totally different person,” he says. “I get emotional when I talk about it – the loving, caring, support of my family, and my church family, has kept me going day in and day out. They’ve been willing to support me in any way I needed.”
Shawn was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015. As the disease progressed, his failing health forced him to take a leave of absence from his job at First Care Ambulance Service. After starting PD Dialysis at home, he returned to work part time to secure his health insurance.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to provide monetary assistance during his recuperation.