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FBC Jacksonville Pastor Derek Staples donates kidney to church membercomment (0)

April 12, 2012

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

FBC Jacksonville Pastor Derek Staples donates kidney to church member


Last August, Pastor Derek Staples led a prayer service at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, for Jennifer Borders, a church member suffering from advanced kidney disease. Jennifer was preparing to begin dialysis, and her name soon would be added to the national waiting list for a kidney transplant.

As the service ended, Staples turned to Jennifer’s husband, Jason, and said, “Wouldn’t it be something if God used someone in this room to be a channel of blessing to reveal His glory?” Little did Staples know that God was in fact planning to use someone in that room, and that “someone” was him.

Knowing Jennifer’s need, Staples joined a handful of members from First, Jacksonville, in Calhoun Baptist Association, who volunteered for a blood test that would determine if any of them might be a match for her. Since Jennifer and Staples’ wife, Julie, share a blood type, he expected that if either of them were candidates, it would be Julie. However, in December, Staples got the news that he was a match, and if was willing, they would proceed with further testing to determine whether he could give a kidney to Jennifer.

“We were convinced it was of the Lord, and throughout the process, the Lord kept confirming it was His will,” Staples said.

Further tests showed that Staples, 51, was indeed a suitable donor, and a few weeks later, Derek Staples became a living organ donor.

According to the website of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the first living organ donation happened in 1954, when a kidney from one twin was successfully transplanted into his identical brother. Today more than 6,000 individuals choose to become living donors each year. Kidney donations are by far the most common, but living donors also can provide a lobe of a lung or a portion of a liver, pancreas or intestine. While many living donors choose to give to a relative, one in four donors is not biologically related to the recipient. Even total strangers can be living donors to someone who is waiting for an organ transplant.

“Especially when a kidney donation is involved, a living donor usually provides the best possible outcome,” said Derek DuBay, assistant professor of surgery in the division of transplantation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and a deacon at Liberty Park Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, in Birmingham Baptist Association. “When compared to dialysis, a pre-emptive kidney transplant offers the most improvement in health and a huge survival advantage to the patient.”

While the potential benefits are great, organ recovery and transplant surgeries involve risks as well. For this reason, living donors go through an extensive process of education about the transplant process prior to surgery. Part of this preparation involves meeting with a living donor advocate, who works only with the potential donor to ensure that he is indeed willing to give and comfortable with the process, according to Maryann Bonventre, living donor coordinator at UAB Kidney Transplant Center. A new Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic also opened at UAB in March.


“Donating (an organ) is pretty much the greatest gift you can give to someone while you are still alive, so it needs to be something you are completely convicted you need to do,” Bonventre said. 

“We want them to donate because they desire to give a kidney, not because everybody else wants them to.”

For Staples, the decision to donate was directly related to his belief that the Bible instructs Christians to help others. 

“Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and most of us as believers on a daily basis are trying to work out what that means,” he said.

Staples said the experience has taught the entire congregation more about what it means to be a servant, and he believes that is why God chose him to be a donor.

“It’s very humbling to know that of all the people in this community and in this church, God selected me to give a kidney to Jennifer,” he said. “Maybe the Lord selected me as a pastor to help communicate with others the importance of loving and caring for each other.”

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