I’d never met Janet, the woman in the photo, but I couldn’t just like the post and move on, knowing there might be something I could do to help. Every reason that I came up with not to do it seemed selfish.
On June 29, 2020, a Facebook friend shared a post from a BJU Alumni page about a woman in need of a liver. They were looking for someone with Type O blood to make a liver donation. I’ve since learned that Type O livers are rare and in high demand. I’ve learned a lot about livers — way more than I ever wanted to.
The Facebook post directed me to email Janet’s mother for more information, and by the end of day I’d filled out an application to be Janet’s liver donor (and discovered that I worked at camp during college with Janet’s brother, another BJU graduate).
I was told that there were other people on the list to donate to Janet, but that the transplant team had my information and would keep me posted. I didn’t hear another word until December. That’s when I got a call asking me to do bloodwork. Someone else was being evaluated, but I was up next on the list if that fell through. On New Year’s Eve, the transplant coordinator asked me to fly out to Denver for two days of physical and psychological testing, and just three weeks later I was approved as a match for Janet.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the human liver (apologies to my excellent Essential Science teachers) and I doubt that you’re looking for an anatomy lesson, but here’s what I’ve learned: Finding a liver donor is like finding a needle in a haystack, and everyone’s liver is different. Not only did I have to be in good health and have the same blood type, my liver needed to be the exact right size to give Janet what she needs while leaving enough for me. Even the anatomy of my liver mattered, down to the veins and bile ducts and arteries that need to be in the right spot to allow for easy removal and transplant.
Getting the call that I was a match — that everything about my body was exactly how it needed to be to meet Janet’s need — was a humbling miracle.
Janet and I are having surgery on February 22. In God’s providence, we should each have a fully-functioning liver in a matter of weeks.
I work in fundraising, and every day I’m amazed by the generosity of people giving to a cause they believe in. Early in my career, I developed a mission statement to describe my calling as a fundraiser: The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills always provides for the things that are close to His heart.
God has provided every step of the way. He created the liver to be able to regrow, even in another person’s body. He led Janet’s family to, in faith, post about Janet on the Alumni Facebook page. He allowed me to see the post when my former dorm mentor shared it. He’s given me good health, even in the middle of a pandemic. He’s put me in a work environment that is supportive and flexible, allowing me to take a month off to travel to Colorado for surgery. One of my former teachers connected me to her in-laws who are letting me stay in their home while I recover. Through the generosity of friends and family and fellow alumni, He is providing the funds for my evaluation trip to Colorado and my upcoming stay for surgery and recovery.
He’s given Janet the courage to fight this illness for many years. And He’s given me the courage to say yes to this extraordinary opportunity.
BJUtoday and Alumni Relations will be following the story of alumni Janet Thorin (’08), a nurse who has battled degenerative liver disease for many years, and Margaret Stegall (’16), her prospective donor. See all articles in the story.