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‘We are family’: Moody woke up confident he would be match for kidney transplant

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    Chris Garey (left) and Josh Moody with their six sons at the Moody home following their July 29 interview. DEBBIE LURIE-SMITH/Staff

Two dads who spend a lot of time at the ballfield with their boys are about to become connected in a way few ever experience.

Chris Garey is in need of a kidney transplant, and Josh Moody is giving him a kidney. When asked if the men would be friends forever, Garey’s wife did not hesitate.

“Friends? We are family.”

From outward appearance, the men appear different, but the two men are a testament that looks are deceiving. The transplant is scheduled to take place Aug. 13 in Atlanta.

Garey is the father of four boys and Moody is the father of two. Both were regulars at the Morris Bank Recreational Complex and school ballfields with their sons.

Moody said he was sorry when he heard that Garey was ill, but, although he saw him regularly at ballfields, he did not know him well.

Moody said for years his job kept him from attending Sunday services but that changed in February. He said he learned that Garey’s kidneys had failed from a prayer request that was announced in his Sunday School class.

He said the next time he saw Garey was when their sons’ middle schools, Clifton Ridge and Gray Station, played against each other.

“I kept looking at him and his four boys at the game. We went home and I started talking to my wife about it,” he said.

Moody said it laid heavy on his heart, and when he got up the next morning, he knew he was a match.

“I told my wife I was donating my kidney to Chris and asked her to get in touch with his wife, Lashawn,” he said.

Moody’s wife, Laura Beth, said she did not have Lashawn’s phone number but was able to get it through friends.

Diagnosis

Garey said he went to a quick med Jan. 21 because he thought he had a sinus infection and stomach pain. He said he was put in the hospital for tests and ended up in ICU. On Jan. 27, he found out his kidney function was four percent.

Garey worked at Academy Sports and Outdoors but has not been able to work for eight months.

After finding Lashawn’s phone number, Laura Beth decided to text her that Josh wanted to donate his kidney to Chris. Lashawn said she actually gave Laura Beth the wrong number for the transplant coordinator, but she was ultimately able to get in touch with the right person to start the process.

Josh said the first step to determine if the men were a match was a simple blood type test. Both men were O negative. That was huge, but just the beginning.

He said there were lots more bloodwork, heart tests and even sleep studies. Through it all, Josh never doubted that he was a match.

“We were a genetic match; both of us have a dominant Cherokee Indian gene,” he said.

Also remarkably, bloodwork revealed that Chris has been exposed to some things that Josh had not, but Josh had not been exposed to anything that Chris had not, which is important.

The doctors told the families the percentage to just find that blood type match was one in 1,000. Chris is 41 years old, which makes the match even more important. He needs a living donor, and the expected wait time was 10 years.

Chris too had faith that all would work out, but he said he did not let himself believe he would get a kidney.

Through all the tests, Josh never wavered in his belief he was a match.

“The doctors were just shaking their heads. We are a 98 percent match,” he said.

To put that in perspective, he said immediate family members are usually a 25 percent match. The closer the match, the fewer anti-rejection drugs the recipient will be required to take for the rest of his life.

Family

The fact that Chris is black was not a factor fo Josh, but both families feel it is important their story is told, especially due to what has been going on in the country.

“God is working here, and people need to see it,” Josh said. “People need to look beyond what they see with their eyes.”

Laura Beth said the testing results proves that.

“Josh and Chris may look different, but they are so much alike they can share a vital organ,” she stated.

The donor said all Christians can do is be a witness.

“I am not a hero for just doing the right thing,” Josh stated.

Chris said it all got rea for him when he had to start dialysis. Lashawn said she looks at her son as heroes because of the way they have taken car of her since their father got sick and made sure she was OK.

“They grew up quickly,” she said.

Josh views his part in the transplant experience as an honor.

“I was chosen. God has trusted me with this, and I feel like this is my purpose,” he said. “How many people can say they know their purpose?”

Chris, of course, is very appreciative but it places him in a new position. He said enjoys helping people, and he is not used to being on the receiving end.

“It’s overwhelming. You never know who is going to step up to help,” he said.

Josh and Laura Beth are members of First Baptist Church, and the Gareys attend Swift Creek Baptist.

Josh said what Chris was not saying was the hours he has spent helping kids on and off the ball field.

Expenses for a transplant are significant, and that is when the Gareys’ baseball family stepped up, led by the Moodys. A fundraiser was held at the Morris Bank Recreation Complex May 14, that was so well attended, police officers were needed to help with traffic.

Laura Beth said the fundraiser was so successful because of the love people in Jones County have for Chris.

“People we didn’t know were very generous,” she said.

Josh added that people not only came, but they stayed.

“We almost had to ask them to go home,” he said.

The donor recalled one man who just came by to drop off a generator while they were setting up.

“He didn’t know what exactly was going on, but he wanted to help. He said he heard that someone was donating a ‘liver’ so he thought we could use a generator,” Josh said. “He said he would pick it up the next day. It was great.”

Chris will be hospitalized for two weeks following the transplant. Josh should be released the next day, but he anticipates being off work for 6-8 weeks.

Chris said he worries about both families. He has been on dialysis since his diagnosis and has lost 51 pounds of fluid in the process.

The families have become very close in the months since their journey began. Laura Beth recalls the first time the men saw each other at the ballfield after Josh committed to donating his kidney. They started to shake hands but just hugged.

“There wasn’t a dry eye out there,” she said.

Anyone interested in helping with expenses of the transplant may still do so by taking a check payable to “Kidney for Chris” to Morris Bank or dropping a check by Gray Dental Associates. Those with a Venmo account can donate at kidney4chris.

God is working here, and people need to see it.People need to look beyond what they see with their eyes.

– Josh Moody, kidney donor