When Ken Woodbury first decided to donate a kidney, his goal was to help one person. He didn’t know it would affect the lives of nine families. But thanks to a new medical technology, to Porter Adventist Hospital and to the willingness of an altruistic donor, countless people’s lives were changed.
But it all started with Ken.
Ken Woodbury, husband and father of four daughters, is a Boston native now living near Vail, Colorado where he manages restaurants for Vail Resorts.
Ken’s choice to donate a kidney wasn’t a quick one. It started with a local newspaper column about a woman who herself had given a kidney. “Something clicked,” he said. “I wondered if that was something I could do.” It turned out the lady went to Calvary Chapel, the same church he attended. He met up with her and came away feeling that this was something God wanted him to do.
So he began praying, talking with doctors and doing research. “I didn’t want to rush into it,” he says. For about six months he mulled the idea over in his head. His wife was skeptical. She could understand giving a kidney to a close friend or family member, but why a stranger? His reply: “I don’t see the difference between a family member and a stranger. ‘There is no greater love than this, to lay down his life for his brother’.”
Ken saw donating a kidney as a chance to save a life. “How often does a person get that opportunity?” he says. Once he had made up his mind, he contacted a doctor at Porter Adventist Hospital. Porter had recently joined the National Kidney Registry, an organization dedicated to improving how kidney transplants are performed.
The Registry works by using advanced algorithms and a database of donors and patients to set up chain reactions, where one donation can create a cascade of more. For example, take a husband who wants to donate a kidney to his wife, but is the wrong match. If someone across the country is in a similar situation, instead of giving to their own wives, they can give to each other’s wife.
In Ken’s case, his choice to give to a stranger set off a reaction that rippled through the lives of nine other people. The procedure involves coordination from doctors around the country. The day of the transplant, Ken was in for the operation at 4:30 am. The kidney was flown to New York, where the recipient was already on the operating table. Meanwhile, the recipient’s family member was having his own kidney flown to Cleveland.
The procedure was a complete success. Ken recovered in a few weeks and says he feels better now than he ever has. Thinking back, he knows he made the right choice.
“When you read about all the evil in the world, like the recent shootings, everybody always wants to blame God. They never give Him credit for the good things,” he says.
For Ken, the decision to donate a kidney turned out to be more positive than he could imagine—and he would do it again in a heartbeat. “I think it’s changed my life as much as it changed any of theirs. I had more joy this last Christmas than I had in a long time, just knowing all those families were able to celebrate together.”
This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for mission and ministry for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health, where he serves the five Adventist hospital campuses in Colorado. It was written by CMBell Company.