Regular readers of my blog may recall an entry (it was Aug. 16, if you want to go back to the archives and read it) in which I talked about being in church the day a friend returned from heart transplant surgery this summer.
Well, that friend, Dave Jeter (whose parents used to operate Jeter's food market at Gregory and Oak in Kansas City) and his wife Lydia, know what church is for. One thing it is for is to celebrate the joys in our lives. So Dave and Lydia decided they would ask our pastor, Dr. Edward Thompson, to help lead a worship service called "Celebrating the Gift of Life," in which we, as a church, could come together to acknowledge the joy of having Dave in our midst again with a new heart.
A week ago yesterday afternoon, we gathered at my church -- about 200 of us -- and did exactly that. What an inspiring service.
One of the speakers was my friend Keith Anderson, a church elder who also is executive director of an organization called the Gift of LIfe Foundation, which encourages people to arrange to donate organs and tissue at their death because there is much more demand for organs and tissue than there are donors to meet that demand.
Another speaker was my friend Dr. Bill Reed, a heart transplant surgeon at the University of Kansas Medical Center who also is a member of our church.
Bill noted that inevitably organs are give "at a time of great grief to the family" of someone who has died, "but," he noted, "they're doing it out of love." As Dave Jeter says, "There is always joy and grief inherent in every heart transplant." Bill has done many heart transplants over the last 20 years, and he says "one cannot doubt God's presence" when he, as surgeon, prepares the donated heart to be implanted into someone who urgently needs it.
Dave Jeter was suffering heart failure and heart rhythm problems. When he received his donated heart (from a 32-year-old female, which so far is all he knows about the donor) in July, there were 2,000 Missourians and 1,000 Kansans waiting for organs to be donated so they, too, could receive a transplant, he says. Dave's surgery was done at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Dave's conclusion about his experience: "I believe I have been truly blessed by a miracle."
It's always hard to know how much about such matters to attribute to divine intervention and how much to attribute to great science and dedicated health care workers. I can't sort that out, except to say I believe both happen and in that, in the end, God's hand is at work in creating great science and dedicated health care workers.
I just know we're all glad to have Dave back with us and that we all should think about ways we can extend the life of our own bodies by making sure all our usable organs and tissue are donated at our death.
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Today's religious holiday: Last day of Sukkot (Judaism).