MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana State Police officer Eric Parker always knew Troy Lawrence was a good friend, but he never would have imagined that Lawrence would be there when his life literally depended on it.
The two had once lived near each other in the same Muncie neighborhood after Lawrence moved in from Australia, and they maintained the friendship as Parker moved to Fort Wayne. Distance separated them, but they always kept in touch.
In 2011, Parker was diagnosed with kidney problems. Last January, he finally hit the point where he met medical qualifications to join the organ donor recipients list. His kidneys were failing, working below a 20 percent glomerular filtration rate (GFR). An average GFR for a man around his age was above 90 percent.
Parker was scared. He was exhausted. He and his wife Catherine had a strong faith that everything would be OK, but they also knew many people in his position had to wait five or more years to receive an organ donation, so they prepared themselves for the worst.
A July afternoon meal at Outback Steakhouse with Lawrence rid him of any fears he had.
“He called me and said, ‘Hey, let’s get lunch,'” Parker said.
It was a lunch the two most certainly would never forget. Lawrence told Parker he was going to give him his left kidney.
All Parker felt was shock.
“It’s hard for the emotions to catch up with the reality of the information,” Parker said. “I’m trying to process all of it in my mind with what he said, and then my feelings are trying to catch up with what I’m understanding.”
The man who made this moment possible was the mutual friend who introduced Lawrence and Parker to one another. Chris Karson, a Ball State University graduate who, after being paralyzed at the age of 19 while the passenger of a drunk driver, unfortunately died this summer in a vehicle accident in Merrillville.
But before he died, Karson was there to console Parker when he was at his lowest point. In return, he was there to provide advice for Lawrence when he so desperately wanted to help. Thus, the idea for the life-saving surgery was brought forth. Without Karson, Parker and Lawrence agree that their friendship might not have happened, and subsequently, Parker might not be getting a kidney so quickly now.
“(Karson) was pretty excited to know I was willing to do this,” Lawrence said. “He’d be jumping for joy if he could.”
Surgery is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16, both of theirs on the same day, at IU Medical Center in Indianapolis.
When Parker found out he was getting a kidney, the day already had had a surreal start, almost as if it was all building up to that emotional moment. Just before heading to Outback, Parker got gas for his car, when a random motorist who saw him in uniform came up to him and handed him $10.
“Lunch is on me,” the good Samaritan said, later thanking him for his work as a police officer. Then, when Parker and Lawrence sat down for lunch, restaurant patrons approached their table, one-by-one, also thanking him for his service.
And then, Lawrence shared the news for which he had set up the lunch.
Parker walked out of that restaurant, belly and heart full, only to discover their bill already had been paid by patrons who overheard the emotional conversation. So, the $10 he got from the motorist at the gas station went toward the tip.
The state trooper, fully dressed in his uniform, can’t stop the tears from welling in his eyes when talking about it. Lawrence reaches over and pats his friend’s shoulder.
“It’ll be all right,” Lawrence reassures with no tears in his eyes, just a warm smile.
Lawrence is used to surgery. He’s had four in the past two years. His friend calls him a “surgery expert.”
The Aussie’s right foot was amputated after a bad fall when cutting a friend’s tree. His ankle got hooked in the rungs of his ladder as he tumbled down, sending him to the hospital and leaving him with the tough decision to remove the limb below his knee.
“In my life, where I’m at, I look at things from a different perspective because I’m an amputee,” Lawrence said. “I can understand a bit of what Eric could be going through, that anticipation of what could happen.”
Lawrence remembers doctors and counselors asking him if he was up for this challenge, if he knew what he was getting himself into. Lawrence was a bit baffled. All he could think was, Why wouldn’t I, seriously? My friend’s gonna die. That’s kind of a stupid question.
But experience with past surgeries didn’t prompt Lawrence to go through with this one, nor did it get him to decide so quickly. It was his strong faith. All he knew was that if he had to go to his friend’s funeral, he wanted to be able to go up to his family and tell them that he tried his best to save him. He asked God to help him do that.
“Pretty much every morning, I’d pray,” he said. “Every time after coming to the gym, I’d pray and ask God, ‘My life is yours. Open and close the right doors. If that’s what you want from me, let it happen.'”
Lawrence’s prayers were answered. At a similar age and similar body type, he found out he was a match for his friend, which is quite a rare occurrence. In order to be a match, one must pass a variety of compatibility tests, which might include blood, urine and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) testing.
Nonetheless, they all cooperated. Lawrence said he can now fulfill what God has led him to do, to help Parker spend more days alive and well.
“His donation is adding years to my life, but also adding life to my years,” Parker said.
Parker remembers when his late friend Karson once reminded him to take advantage of the time he has now. That no one is disabled. In essence, everyone is “temporarily abled.” There will always be something that rids you of your mobility in the end, and it was up to Parker to use his “abled” time wisely.
If Lawrence hadn’t offered to be a donor, Parker’s time would be a lot shorter. He eventually would have been put on dialysis, which he said would’ve given him only five years to live, at most.
Parker said he is eternally grateful for his friend’s sacrifice, and like Lawrence, he believes the situation is in God’s hands.
The surgery itself will require Lawrence to change his lifestyle a bit. He’s an avid exerciser at the Northwest YMCA in Muncie. Working out there is what got him to the proper size in order to be a donor match. Now, however, he can’t exercise as much because his protein levels are way too high. (He said it’s killing him to sit still.) As of 5 p.m. on a typical day, Lawrence already has 13,900 steps logged on his pedometer. He needs to cut that in half.
He even quit caffeine cold turkey after being used to drinking several cups of coffee a day.
The lifestyle changes are nothing Lawrence can’t handle. He said he’s “got great kidneys.” These changes are so he doesn’t put them to waste.
Lawrence could focus on how he’s already missing a leg, and how he’s now getting rid of another part of his body. He could fester over the risks, how the transplant process could cause pain, infection and blood loss. He could lament over how he’ll have to be extra careful about blows to his stomach during his recovery after the surgery, and how being an amputee makes that more difficult because it’s easier for him to slip and fall.
Instead, all he does is grin, thinking about how he now has the chance to save Parker’s life.
“Who would’ve thought God could do that?”?
Source: The (Muncie) Star Press
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