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The Story of our First Potential Living Donor


I am so excited to share the story of our first potential living donor with you. The conversations with this guy, and the selflessness of his offer, have touched our hearts in so many ways.

In January of this year, I woke up to a Facebook message from a high school friend, Desmond Parker. And I laid in bed crying as I read it. He couldn’t sleep the night before and decided to re-activate his Facebook account. The first thing he saw in his timeline was a blog post that I’d written with an update on Reid’s health. And something in him said “I need to help”. He spent the next hour or so researching living donor transplants before messaging me, and he “couldn’t find a reason why NOT to do it.” His message said that he wanted to be tested to see if he was a match for my husband.

Y’all, I hadn’t talked to this guy in several years. He had never met my husband. He felt no obligation to us other than we had a need, and he wanted to help (cue the tears). Dez checked all of the boxes on paper. For whatever reason, I just feel like he is going to be the match.

I messaged him back and after thanking him profusely said “if you’re really serious about this, we will definitely let you know when we get to that point.” Over the next few months, he and I kept in touch and I would randomly get texts from him asking “When can I get tested?” He was serious, and he wanted to make sure we knew it.

I kept him updated as we looked into different living donor programs. As we began looking into Cleveland Clinic’s program, I asked him “How would you feel about an all-expense paid trip to Cleveland?” His response? “Whatever it takes.”

After we met with the Cleveland Clinic team and went through testing to get Reid listed, we took Dez out to dinner to explain the process and have him meet Reid. We sat down at dinner with him and he said “Okay, so what’s the latest? When do I go get tested?” He was excited to know, and ready to go. We honestly spent the dinner trying to talk him out of it. It’s a major surgery. It means traveling to Cleveland for testing and then staying in Cleveland for 4-8 weeks post-surgery. We don’t ever want anyone to feel like they HAVE to get tested. It’s a big deal. Going into a major surgery to give someone a portion of your organ is HUGE. He said, “you can’t talk me out of this. The only way I’m not donating part of my liver is if they determine I’m not a match. I’m doing this and you can’t stop me.”  Well okay!

Since that dinner, Dez has become a part of our family, and he is a constant source of encouragement for us. He is a constant reminder of the good people in this world. He didn’t know my husband. He could have pretended he never saw my post, and gone about his night. He could have said “I hope someone helps them” and moved on. He had zero “obligation”. But he explained later that this is “bigger than us. There’s a need in this world, and I can help. So why would I not?”

We need more people like him in this world. If you went to high school with us, you likely know Dez, and you're probably not surprised by his offer. He was friends with everyone and was always smiling.

I’m not going to lie though, sometimes it seems too good to be true. But throughout the process Dez has given us so much reassurance and showed us how much he wants to do this. He has dealt with my freak-outs and met with them with words that bring me to tears. I’ve questioned whether he truly understood what a sacrifice this is. Which he responds to with comments like “The worst thing that can happen is I don’t wake up from surgery. And if this is the way I go, I’m at peace with that” or “reading your story has touched me, and I’m committed to doing whatever I can to help.” I can’t say enough how amazing it has been to see this part of our story unfold.   

In a few short weeks, Dez will be traveling to Cleveland to be tested to see if he is the match. Please keep him in your prayers. He will undergo 3 days of testing and appointments at Cleveland Clinic. Upon completion of the testing, we will hopefully know pretty quickly whether he is the match. If he is, surgery could be scheduled as early as a week out from that date. This is just the first of a major sacrifice he is making throughout this process.

If he is a match, we will schedule the surgery and head to Cleveland a few days to a week prior (Reid will have to have some more pre-transplant testing and meetings with the team). We are hoping and wishing and praying with everything in us that he is the match. At this point, I think he’ll be just as disappointed as us if he isn’t.

This whole process is so surreal. I was so focused on getting Reid listed with the program, that I never TRULY stopped to think how much it would affect us to have someone make this selfless decision. How can we LET someone willingly go into surgery to save my husband? How can we even ask that? How can someone be so selfless and fearless that they are willingly signing up for this? The week that Dez was scheduling his testing was super emotional for me. I had a mild panic attack and a huge pit in my stomach for days. I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to repay the donor, whomever that ends up being, for this courageous act. But I will tell you one thing, I will figure out a way to help someone else in the same way one day. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel. We are so far beyond that, the word “grateful” just doesn’t even do it justice.

Whether Dez ends up being the match or not, we are so overwhelmed with gratitude that he has even offered and is being tested.  Please show him some love, and send all good vibes, positive thoughts, and prayers his way. He could very well be that miracle that we’ve been waiting for.

And to our “back-up donors”… a lot of these same thoughts apply to you. We are so very grateful and humbled by you all.

If you’d like to learn more about the living donor program, and how the process works, more information can be found at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/transplant/programs/liver/living-donor-clinic.

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