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Wife donates kidney to husband nearly 25 years after praying in Acteens for his first transplant comment (0)

March 26, 2009

By Grace Thornton

He nearly jumped off the page at her, that 17-year-old missionary kid — and Lynn Wood knew she had to pray for him.

A teen herself, she was drawn to Chris Harper’s story in The Alabama Baptist in July 1984, a story of surgery after surgery, then month after month of dialysis — part of a deteriorating kidney condition that brought his family permanently off the missions field in Southeast Asia so that he could get treatment.

His mother donated her own kidney for him. Lynn was touched. Her Acteen group at Northport Baptist Church, where her father served as pastor, prayed for the high schooler in the picture, smiling in his hospital room in front of a wall full of get-well cards and letters.

She had no idea that five years later, the two would marry after meeting at Samford University in Birmingham — or that nearly 25 years later, she would give him her kidney, too.

“I told her, ‘Lynn, you are getting a bum deal,’” Chris Harper said of when the two decided to marry.

He carried a lot of questions and guilt about his condition. He wondered if he could father children. He wondered how long his life span would be. He wondered if he would hold his new bride back from opportunities. “I had kept my whole family from going back to the missions field as a 17 year old.”

It might not be worth the risk, he said.

But Lynn Harper didn’t agree. “I loved him.”

And four children and a quarter-century later, she had the opportunity to give him a gift that showed it. The kidney his mother, Virginia, had given him had nearly run its course. He needed a new one — badly.

“That was bad news to hear, until I found out that most donated kidneys only last 10 to 15 years. That changed my whole perspective — 24 years didn’t sound so bad,” Chris Harper said.

So where would the new one come from?

Everyone in the family offered.

“My oldest son wanted to, but he’s not old enough. My brother and sister started fighting over who had the superior kidney,” joked Chris Harper, a member of Enon Baptist Church, Morris. “And Lynn really wanted to be the donor.”

Probably 25 of the patients at the office in Warrior where he and his father, Oliver, practice medicine offered to give a kidney to the cause, too. Fellow church members offered. Missionaries offered.

And if his mother had another kidney, she’d offer it again “in a heartbeat,” she said.

“One of the blessings of a transplant is you see how many people truly love you,” Chris Harper said. “I’ve been very emotional over the offers — it is such a heavy gift that it gets me in the heart every time.”

But his wife wanted to give more than anyone else.

“I had a longing in my heart to be able to give to him,” she said.

So when she found out she was a match, “It was a dream come true.”

The two came through surgery beautifully Dec. 3, 2008.

“I’m truly thankful for this wonderful Christmas gift from my wife to me,” Chris Harper said. “I joke now that with Mom’s kidney and Lynn’s kidney, I’m 3 percent woman now — which explains the chocolate cravings.”

Lynn Harper laughs, but she notes just what a delicate process it all was — and how God helped them through their doubts and fears.

“The whole process brought us together, strengthened our faith and brought us to a deeper level with the Lord,” she said.

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