(Meridian readers can receive a free gift of my Zion series. To receive your free PDF copies of this 8-book series on Zion, click here.)
On April 1, 1990, my wife and I rushed our fifteen-year old son, Matt to the hospital because he was bleeding internally. The next day we were told that he had end-stage renal disease–kidney failure. For an unknown reason his kidneys had failed. Initially we thought that the hemorrhaging was due to his having been born with hemophilia, an inherited bleeding disorder. Matt’s body produces less than one percent of the blood-clotting agent that a normal person’s body will make. His hemophilia is considered severe.
Our concern over Matt’s hemorrhaging was the latest in a long list of health problems. But we had hope. Some years earlier, a medical breakthrough had promised a dramatic lifestyle change to the hemophiliac community–Factor. Researchers had developed a method of isolating and extracting the deficient coagulant in the blood. Now infusions to coagulate blood could be administered at home in minutes rather than at the hospital in hours.
But as marvelous as was this life-saving Factor, we were about to discover that it had a deadly side effect. At that time, no one knew that the blood pool was contaminated with the HIV virus. In fact, during the 1980s, substantially 95% of hemophiliacs that had received Factor had become infected. Most would eventually die of AIDS.
As information trickled down to us, the frightening possibility of AIDS became a growing concern. Over the years, Matt had watched many his friends, with whom he had attended hemophilia camp, contract HIV, develop full-blown AIDS and die. My wife’s hemophiliac cousin had been one of the casualties. One is reminded of the diseases that the white man brought to the Hawaiians and the American Indians as examples of innocent populations being decimated by plagues not of their making. For hemophiliacs, the very medicine that they depended on to stay alive was killing them!
But to appreciate our story, I must step back in time.
I had spent much of 1987 consumed with the impression that Matt was in danger, but I did not know why. Hemophilia? AIDS? Something else? All I knew was he needed protection through a priesthood blessing. As I stated, we had so little information about the HIV hazard during at that time; of course we had no idea that, even now, his kidneys were failing. I had the nagging impression that Matt’s life was or would be in peril, and I began to pray for guidance. I fasted. I attended the temple and made the subject a matter of continuing contemplation.
One night, after nine months’ effort to receive added inspiration, I was reading the 7th chapter of Alma that speaks of Christ’s having suffered for all of our afflictions. Understanding suddenly burst upon my mind. Matt’s afflictions had already been faced and overcome in the Atonement. The keys were now with Christ, if we could gain permission to access them.
I suddenly felt both confidence and urgency. Matt could be protected and healed by an appeal to the Savior, but he needed a priesthood blessing now! Actual words for the petition came to my mind. I immediately called upon two men of extreme faith and experience to help with the anointing and sealing. We all prepared as best we could.
On a designated evening, we knelt together in prayer and pled for divine consent to turn specific keys of the Atonement in Matt’s behalf. The experience was powerful. Promises of protection, healing and long life were pronounced. A record was made of the blessing. We were at peace.
Over the next few years Matt continued to receive Factor as more and more information was being released about hemophiliacs’ contracting the AIDS virus. Our greatest scare came late one night when we received an urgent phone call warning us to avoid a certain batch of Factor because it had been contaminated with HIV. Only hours earlier, we had given Matt an injection of that medicine. Today, hemophilia medicines are subjected to heat treatments and freezing to ensure their purity. Becoming infected with the AIDS virus is a remote possibility.
The miracle? Matt never did contract HIV, although his doctors confirm that he was exposed to it. The physicians were perplexed and asked for samples of his “rare” blood to help in HIV research. It didn’t help them. A priesthood blessing cannot be seen under a microscope. We felt blessed. Heavenly Father sent a warning and a solution. We had witnessed a miracle, but we had no comprehension of that priesthood blessing’s far-reaching effects. We would be the participants in more miracles.
April 2, 1990–The day after Matt had begun to hemorrhage my wife and I arrived at the hospital only to be rushed into a quiet room by a doctor, who told us that Matt’s kidneys had failed. The doctor couldn’t understand why Matt wasn’t in a coma. My wife and I were devastated. We were suddenly faced with the very real possibility that our son might die.
Reaching out for help, I phoned my father-in-law and our bishop to help me give a blessing. For the two hours that we waited for them to arrive, I walked the hospital grounds weeping and praying for peace. None came. I finally arrived at a decision: no matter what happened, I would allow nothing to turn me away from my God. I would trust him. I said aloud, “If you must take him, it will be hard for me, but I won’t stop believing in you.”
Later, as we priesthood holders gathered around Matt’s bed, Grandpa offered a blessing of healing. His eloquent words acknowledged a power beyond our own and he pled that that power be invoked in Matt’s behalf. When he finished, I stepped back to the far side of the room as loved ones stood by Matt and talked to him. Then our bishop turned and walked toward me. Placing his hands on both of my shoulders, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Matt will be alright.” His words shot through me like lightning, and something like a voice spoke to my mind as if to say, “That is right!”
For the next three months our family life was put on hold as my wife and I took tests to see which of us might be able to donate a kidney. Dialysis was now keeping Matt alive. We were soon to find that becoming a donor was not an easy task. One must be in prime health and have no previous history of serious illness. After one test, I was told that I could not be considered as a donor because, at age eleven, I had contracted nephritis, a complication of strep that attacks the kidneys. I had nearly died of kidney failure! The doctors told me that my kidneys had surely been damaged. They rejected me!
Strangely, some months earlier, before Matt’s kidney failure, I had followed the story of Senator Jake Garn’s donating a kidney to his daughter. The Spirit had whispered, “You will one day do that, too.” It was a strange impression that I had tried to dismiss only to have it surface again and again.
Now, in the middle of donor tests, it felt like a clear directive. I was not about to be told by doctors that I could not be considered as a donor.
That day I drove home from the hospital concerned that the burden of donating a kidney would fall to my wife. I was confused about the former impressions that I had received and I began to offer a vocal prayer. Suddenly, the thought came into my mind, Go and ask your bishop for a blessing and your kidneys will be fine.
I immediately drove to the Bishop’s house and explained my feelings. He listened. He understood. He prayed. He laid his hands on my head and implored God for intervention.
Later, I returned to the hospital and begged the doctors to allow me to continue to take the donor tests along with my wife. They relented, but held out little hope. No former nephritic patient had ever donated a kidney, they said. For that matter, only one other hemophiliac had ever received a donated kidney. From the onset, our case would be rare, if not improbable. For the next month, my wife and I endured a barrage of blood and urine tests. Then the result came. My kidneys were perfect! And I was to be chosen to be the donor.
The next sets of tests were difficult and invasive. One test revealed that I had been born with WPW Syndrome, a rare heart condition that affects one in 100,000 people. An extra electrical pathway to the heart causes periodic palpitations. I could be on the operating table, I was told, and my heart might go into an arrhythmia and I could die. The transplant date was put on hold. As I prayed for guidance, I received an impression to once again ask for a blessing from my bishop, and once again my bishop humbly laid his hands upon my head and petitioned God for help.
I left his office with a feeling of peace and returned to the hospital to take extensive tests on my heart. The results came a week later. “You do have WPW,” said a voice on the phone, “but it doesn’t appear to be serious enough to stop you from donating.”
A new transplant date was set, and I entered the final phase of donor testing. That would include an angiogram.
“Your plumbing is abnormal,” a doctor told me.
“Abnormal?” I was stunned.
Abnormal proved to be an understatement. A normal kidney has attached to it one vein and one artery. In my case, one of my kidneys had two veins and two arteries and the other kidney had two veins and three arteries! This situation posed at least two problems: How would the doctors reroute everything in me? And how would the doctors splice into Matt a kidney that had too many holes?
This time the transplant plans came to a complete stop. Specialists from around the country were consulted. In the meantime, our family did the only thing we could do: we went to our knees. Our bishop was our answer. In our time of need, and for the third time, he laid his hands on my head and pled for an outpouring of inspiration to be with the doctors as they weighed the options. Again, we felt peace. When the call came a week later, no explanation was given. The transplant office at the hospital simply said, “Everything is on for July 3rd. They will take your left kidney.”
Today Matt is married and has three daughters. He has received his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. He works in the Welfare Department for the Church as a medical agent helping others through their difficulties in life.
But the transplant was not the greatest miracle to result from this experience.
One night in 1990, in a dark hospital room, I sat with Matt as he was suffering from a high fever, the result of yet another complication due to his failed kidneys. We were still trying to resolve the donor issue and Matt was discouraged, sick and thought he couldn’t take any more. He wondered out loud if God existed, and if He did exist, did He know that Matt was suffering.
Then came Matt’s answer, quiet and profound.
Beyond all the miracles that had and would result from priesthood blessings and treatments, Matt found his God. In a very private way, in the crucible of adversity, God came and brought with Him healing, strength and comfort…just as He does for each of us. May the God of healing visit and bless us all.
Meridian readers can receive a free gift of my Zion series. To receive your free PDF copies of this 8-book series on Zion, click here.