United Methodist pastor and parishioner part of living kidney donor chain
By Jessica Brodie
NORWAY—A United Methodist pastor and a member of one of his churches were part of an eight-person living donor chain that enabled four people to get a lifesaving kidney transplant recently.
The Rev. John Kronz, who pastors St. John’s and Lebanon United Methodist churches in Norway, in the Orangeburg District, has long felt a nudge to be a kidney donor.
“I thought about doing it for a while, one of those things that popped up when I first got my driver’s license and they ask you if you want to be an organ donor when you die,” Kronz said.
But while it’s something he knew he wanted to do one day, he never felt a big push to do it until he learned one of his church members, Bonnie Fanning, needed a kidney.
While Kronz discovered he and Fanning were not a match because they do not have the same blood type, he learned about a program through the Medical University of South Carolina, a kidney donor chain.
A donor chain pairs people willing to give a kidney with proper matches. Because Kronz wanted to donate a kidney for Fanning, she was able to be part of that program, getting a transplant from someone else who donated a kidney in the eight-person chain of donors and recipients.
After their surgeries in early February, pastor and parishioner are both doing well and recuperating nicely, and both said they feel extraordinarily blessed to have been through this experience.
“It feels like one of those things Christians ought to seriously consider,” Kronz said of kidney donation. “Christ gave of his body for us, and we have the opportunity to do the same.”
He said the donors and recipients all had the opportunity to remain anonymous, but all of them decided to meet, which ended up being one of the most beautiful parts of the experience. The same day of his surgery, he was able to get up and walk around the hospital to meet the others.
“It was a wonderful thing.”
All of the donors and recipients had surgeries within a couple of days of each other; his was Feb. 2, while Fanning’s was Feb. 1.
For him, he said it wasn’t a difficult experience. He spent a day doing medical tests about a year ago to make sure he was healthy enough to be a donor. While it can take years to line up appropriate matches, his experience was relatively fast. Two weeks before Christmas, he got a phone call saying the program had been able to match up enough donors and recipients for a surgery that winter.
He worked with his district superintendent, the Rev. Ken Nelson, to accommodate his leave of absence, lining up enough guest preachers to cover both of his churches, and then he began the emotional preparation, talking to family and friends.
The surgery itself was smooth, he said.
“This was not a horrible, painful experience at all,” Kronz said, “only a little inconvenient to set aside a couple weeks to recover.”
He can’t lift heavy objects for a couple of months, but he’s been back at work for more than a month and doing great.
As for Fanning, she’s overwhelmed with gratitude, not only for Kronz’s generosity but for all of the people who were involved.
She had been on dialysis a couple of years when her pastor approached her, as she said, “out of the blue” about whether she was interested in having him donate a kidney for her.
Fanning was shocked—and so honored.
While dialysis wasn’t painful, it was exhausting and difficult to endure. Others had tried to help her by donating a kidney, but they were not able to donate because of health reasons.
She remembers the day she got the call from MUSC, Dec. 12, telling her they had a match. “It felt like Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday all rolled into one!” she said.
Her kidney ultimately came from a man who runs a restaurant in Saluda whose daughter went into renal failure during her pregnancy and needed a kidney. While he wasn’t a match for his daughter, Fanning said, he still wanted to help. His daughter ended up receiving a kidney from someone else in the eight-person donor chain. Kronz’s kidney went to a father of three living in Charleston.
“It just makes me feel wonderful,” Fanning said about the experience. “I’m so overwhelmed. I can’t imagine giving someone else an organ!”
She said the day the recipients and donors got to meet was incredibly joyful.
“Like the Bible talks about ‘peace beyond understanding,’ that day there was joy beyond understanding. All of us were just touching each other, saying, ‘I’m so thankful for you,’” she said. “Christ gives us that ability to give and receive.”
Kronz said he hopes sharing their story will inspire other people to consider this.
“Life sends us difficulties and inconveniences, but for the benefit of this, it was relatively small in comparison,” he said.
For more on kidney donation, visit https://www.kidney.org/transplantation.