Cooking With Myra: Live long, prosper

By Myra Starkey
Dec. 14, 2010 at 6:14 a.m.
Updated Dec. 15, 2010 at 6:15 a.m.

Rustic Rosemary Olive Bread and Smoked Chicken Chowder

Rustic Rosemary Olive Bread and Smoked Chicken Chowder

Although most folks try to be unselfish and think of others, there are some who give more of themselves than others.

My younger sister, Susie, is a pharmaceutical company representative, and she lives in Houston. Her job involves calling on physicians in order to persuade them to write prescriptions for the products she represents. That is how her company makes money. Susie's area of expertise is dermatology drugs. She spends her working days traveling from one dermatologist's office to another. Over the years, she has made a lot of friends in these offices.

About 15 years ago, Susie met an office manager named Sharon. Sharon is not really her name, in fact, no name I mention from here forward is the character's real name, because I am trying to protect their identity. However, my sister's name is really Susie. As a friendly and caring sales rep might do, Susie would make pleasant conversation with Sharon and at times, even asking how "the family" was doing, which Sharon would reply, "Oh, they are just fine." But several years ago, Sharon told Susie that her husband, John, had been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. His disease had progressed so far that John had to be on dialysis. Sharon explained that the treatments left him too worn out to continue his construction job. Susie could see the stress in Sharon's face and promised to pray for their family. Sharon and John are in their 30s and have three kids.

The next time Susie came into the office, she inquired whether or not John had improved, and Sharon sadly told her that he would most likely die without a kidney transplant. When a person needs a transplant, they normally just get put on a long list and have to wait, unless someone specifically gives them a kidney. His immediate family had yielded no suitable donors. John was one of six children and three of them have the same kidney disease. His other three siblings have other health issues, making them unacceptable donors. Sharon explained that she too had been tested and the doctor found a "hole in her heart," making her ineligible to be a donor. A young, adult cousin had agreed to be tested to see if he matched, but a week before the testing was to commence he had been hit by a car while he was riding his bicycle. Sharon explained that her world seemed to be caving in and she was feeling hopeless.

Susie left the office wondering how she could help and believed that somehow, she should have a part in restoring hope.

Just a few weeks later, she knew what she must do. She called Sharon to volunteer to be tested to see if she would be a suitable match to donate one of her kidneys. The testing process is lengthy, and after about a year, it was found that although Susie was not a match for John, but that she was healthy enough to be a donor for someone else. After meeting with the transplant nurse, Susie learned that Methodist Hospital in Houston was taking part in a program, which allowed John to receive a kidney donated by someone else who did match, if Susie would give her kidney to the "bank" for another recipient.

One might question whether this kidney donation idea is a good one, especially since the kidney is not going directly to the person you know. Of course in this situation, Susie has never met John. And Susie said she didn't care as long as John got his new kidney.

Susie is single with no kids and so she tends to make plans in an independent sort of way. She went through with this organ donation decision without telling anyone in our family, including my parents. Once she told us, we were all surprised, to say the least, and had some difficulty accepting it. Would it hurt her or shorten her life? After she educated us that it was safe and that a human body can operate perfectly fine with one good kidney, we began to recognize this gesture for the truly selfless and immensely generous act that it was. As a family, we began to plan for the day Susie would have the surgery to make the actual donation and give part of herself to someone who desperately needs hope.

I'll join my family in Houston this Friday for the event. There will be nine people, including Susie, donating kidneys in various parts of the country on that day and nine people who will finally receive a functioning organ and be able to go off dialysis.

I asked Susie about the actual recipient of her kidney, and she said it was some guy in California. If I was getting a kidney from a stranger, I would want to know them, so I could tell them how much I appreciate the gift of life that they have given me. Susie said she will be including a card with her kidney. It will have a picture of herself and her address and phone number, so if the California guy wants to know about her, he can contact her. She has had the card for weeks sitting on her dresser. The words on the front are simple, but serious; Live Long and Prosper.

For now, I am baking breads and making soup to freeze, so that Susie won't have to cook while she is recovering. In a week, I will tell you the rest of the story, but for now, we covet your thoughts and prayers for everyone who will be taking part in the priceless gift of love and life.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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