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‘I got better every day’: Kidney donor, recipient recovering well

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    Laura Beth and Josh Moody (left) and Chris and Lashawn Garey have become family as the men are now connected through a kidney donation and transplant. DEBBIE LURIE-SMITH/Staff
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    Moody didn’t want to leave Garey behind in the hospital. “I had a hard time leaving Chris at the hospital the day I went home,” Moody said. “We went in together; it seemed like we should have left together.” CONTRIBUTED

Adjectives such as amazing, remarkable, transforming, incredible and even miraculous fall short of describing what has happened in the lives of two Jones County families involved in a transplant that succeeded despite all the odds against it.

Six weeks after the kidney transplant that awed those surrounding the donor and recipient as well as the doctors involved, the story of Chris Garey and Josh Moody continues to inspire.

Garey found out in January, pretty much out of the blue, that he was in the end stages of kidney failure. His kidney function was at four percent.

Moody heard about Garey’s need for a transplant in his Sunday School Class and only knew the man from seeing him at the ball field. Both dads have boys who play baseball at the recreation complex.

Moody went to bed with Garey’s situation on his heart and woke up the next morning to tell his wife, Laura Beth, he was donating his kidney. The fact that Garey is black and Moody white did not enter into the equation. Moody said he knew this was what God wanted him to do, and he was going to do it.

The men defied all probabilities and turned out to be an almost perfect match. The transplant surgery took place Aug. 13.

Surgery and recovery

Fast forward to a Sept. 27 interview with the two men and their wives: Moody said without hesitation, despite the pain of the surgery, recovery and some limitations for him going forward, he would do it again.

Moody is now at the point that he is going back to work. The recovery period is longer for Garey, who was on dialysis for seven months prior to the transplant.

Moody’s body had to adjust to operating with only one kidney while Garey’s body had to catch up on ridding itself of toxins that remained even after nightly dialysis prior to the transplant. Rejection of the transplanted organ is always a concern, even with the unprecedented match for the two men.

Chris and Lashawn Garey have four sons, and Josh and Laura Beth Moody have two sons. The two families now refer to one another as family, and Josh goes even further than that.

“Me and Chris are more than family; we have the same blood now,” he said.

Josh said he was glad to be returning to work Oct. 1, and the main thing he has to remember is to stay hydrated.

“I was really sore the first two to three days, but after that it started getting better,” he said.

When the donor returns to work, however, it will not be the same job he left in August.

Moody said he found out he had been promoted to a job he had been wanting for at least seven years.

Laura Beth said the doctors had told Josh that heat was his nemesis because of needing to stay hydrated. He previously worked outdoors in the heat, but the new job will be indoors with weekends off.

Josh said he will be teaching new hires and can still be hands on. His wife was quick to add that they look at the promotion as another blessing.

“We are so amazed at how God works,” she said.

Laura Beth said the doctors told them that 50 percent of transplant recipients have to continue on dialysis for a couple of days after the surgery, but Chris did not.

“Josh’s kidney started working within minutes. That doesn’t happen often,” she said.

The wife said they were told the surgery would take three hours, but it took four and a half hours. She said she and Lashawn were getting antsy when the time went longer than expected.

“We picked each other up during the surgery,” Laura Beth said. “Lashawn was so full of hope. It filled the air.”

She said after the surgery was completed, they found out there had not been a problem. The wife said they were later told Josh’s surgeon was taking additional time in order to pray as his kidney was removed and then again over the recipient when it was transplanted.

Laura Beth said she has had to follow Josh’s lead through the process.

“He walked into this in blind faith, and he’s had to lead the rest of us through it,” she stated.

The husband said prior to the surgery he was not sure how living with one kidney would change his lifestyle. He said he had faith it was going to be okay, but he still worked hard to prepare his two sons.

Josh also tried to prepare his family financially by working as much overtime as he could before the surgery. The recipient’s insurance paid for the cost of the hospital and surgery, but Josh would be taking leave without pay for the time he was off work. Exactly how long that would be was unknown and could have been as long as six months.

The donor said his family and friends accepted his decision to donate his kidney, but some just really did not understand.

Josh was able to leave the hospital the next day after the surgery, and Chris was able to leave on the fifth day. The donor said he got up and went to see Chris who was in the room across the hall just hours after the surgery.

“I had a hard time leaving Chris at the hospital the day I went home. We went in together; it seemed like we should have left together,” Josh said.

The men stayed in touch daily throughout their recovery and bounced ideas off each other about how to more easily accomplish tasks like getting out of bed. Josh said it doesn’t seem like the surgery was just six weeks ago.

“I got better every day,” he said.

As he grew stronger, the donor said he wanted people who had been following their progress to see him out and about and know how well he was doing. He went to watch a baseball practice four weeks after the surgery.

Josh and Laura Beth said they were so glad when Chris started eating regular food two weeks after the surgery.

“When he said he wanted meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and collard greens, we knew he was feeling better,” they agreed.

Josh said talking to Chris makes him realize that it was all worth it.

“Everything you go through as a donor is temporary, but the recipient has been going through this all their life,” he said.

Josh said he knew Chris was relying on him.

He said it seemed important even to go to the JCHS Football game.

“I wanted the community to see what God has done,” he said.

And beyond

The recovery time for the transplant recipient is longer, anticipated to be at least six months to a year.

Chris said he is still limited in what he can do, but it is gratifying to see Josh out.

“I’m looking forward to getting outside and going fishing,” he said.

He said he felt different almost immediately after receiving the healthy kidney.

“I felt energized and alert. It was so nice not feeling dizzy,” he said.

The recipient said he had not realized how sick he had been.

“I thank God, Josh and all the doctors and nurses,” he said.

Chris is experiencing some side effects from the medications, such as tremors in his hands, but he is grateful that because of the close match with Josh, he is on the least amount of antirejection medications possible.

“I’ve put it in God’s hands,” he said.

Chris said Josh continues to motivate him, and he feels like he has been given a new beginning.

“I have much more to live for. I don’t want to fail; I refuse to,” he said.

Josh is an avid hunter, and he has been receiving a lot of invitations. He said he has already been able to participate in five dove hunts and a hog hunt since the surgery.

“People just seem to want to give back,” he said.

After the first News article and television broadcast about the transplant, both families have gotten support from unexpected and previously unknown people and organizations. Laura Beth said they have gotten cards and random gifts from as far away as Arkansas and Utah.

They also found out about a 24-hour prayer chain for their families that took place during the surgeries.

Josh said he definitely recommends being a donor.

“If you can, you should give. I hope what I’ve been through can ease the concern for others,” he said.

His gift of a new kidney has been life altering for the man who received it, in ways that have nothing to do with the physical part of healing.

“That morning changed so much. No one can ever know the bond we have. Josh inspires me and makes me a better person,” Chris said. “This is about much more than donating a kidney.”