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A 10-Person Chain of Life

Michael Wingard arrived at Houston Methodist Hospital with a cheerful "Howdy!" He's a young man with a healthy left kidney. In a couple of hours, a surgeon will remove the kidney and sew it into someone else's body. This also happens to be the day before his 20th birthday.

Michael's parents, Adrien and Ed, are with him, and they tear up as Michael is checked in. His mother said, “I'm very, very nervous and scared and all those emotions, but I'm so proud of him. He knew that his friend needed a kidney and he had to do whatever it took to make it happen.”

Michael Wingard's kidney isn't going to his friend, though, because he wasn't a match for her. But he was a match for someone else. And that's how Wingard became the first link in a 10-person chain that took place at Houston Methodist earlier this month.

In addition to Wingard, the swap involved:

Heather O'Neil Smarrella, who will get his kidney. Then her twin

Staci O'Neil gave her kidney to

Javier Ramirez Ochoa, whose son-in-law

Tomas Martinez, donated a kidney to

Chris McLellan, whose father

David McLellan, gave his kidney to

Barbara Moton, whose daughter

Lisa Jolivet, gave her kidney to

Kaelyn Connelly, Wingard's friend.

This 10-person procedure takes place over four days, and it's uncommon. Usually, the hospital has chains that involve up to six people. With all its complexities--from matching antibodies to patient health--a kidney swap of this size is hard to pull off. This one was postponed three times. But it's worth the effort. There are about 90,000 people on the transplant list, waiting for a kidney. Many will remain on the list for years. Some die waiting.

Two days after Michael Wingard's kidney surgery, a group of strangers gathered in a conference room at the hospital. Michael Wingard, Kaelyn Connelly, Heather O'Neil Smarrella, Staci O'Neil, Lisa Jolivet, Javier Ochoa, Tomas Martinez, and Chris McLellan sat around a conference table. And then they weren't strangers anymore. Chris McLellan leans over to Tomas Martinez: "Thank you for giving me my life back." And, he adds, "You have an awesome kidney."

Possible Preaching Angle:

You never know how your service to others, even to strangers, will radiate out into your community.

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