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Mike Saylor, Kidney Recipient and Tim Clark, Living Kidney Donor

My husband, Mike Saylor and Tim Clark first meet at Trinity High School freshman football practice in 1979.  Years later, we never imagined how our lives would intersect.

In the beginning of 2009, my husband was totally healthy.  Suddenly, in February, he was diagnosed in end stage renal failure.  They called it IgA Nephropathy, a rare kidney disease that attacks the immune system.  Mayo Clinic had a treatment plan to keep Mike going but eventually, that quit working.  We knew a transplant was our only hope.  We put the word out that he needed a kidney.

Tim Clark was a friend, but not someone we saw every day.  In fact, we had not seen him in 8 years.  He heard through Facebook from his wife (who is a friend of mine).  When Tim heard Mike needed a kidney, he called him out of nowhere and said, “Saylor, I hear you need a kidney!”  Mike told him yes.  Tim asked what blood type he needed.  Mike confirmed O positive and Tim was the same type so he said, “Where do I go to get tested?”

Much later, we learned that Tim had lost an Aunt waiting for a kidney transplant.  She was only 32 years old and left 8 children without a mother.  He vowed that if he could help others through kidney transplantation, he would do anything he could to help.

It was approximately a year from that phone call when the actual transplant took place.  Tim had to work hard to be able to be Mike’s living donor.  He owns a bar and totally gave up drinking, smoking, and eating bad so he would be healthy enough to donate to Mike.  We were running out of time.  The clock was ticking against us.  We were close to needing dialysis and trying to avoid it.  By Christmas, he would have been on dialysis.  The doctors at Mayo said it was best to avoid that.

What we went through in Cincinnati is almost impossible to put into words.  To sit in the same waiting room with Tim’s wife, mother, his children, my children and Michael’s brother and sister & my two best friends.  Watching waiting for updates on both men was surreal!  The morning before the surgery, we sat in the pre-op room holding hands and saying the Lord’s Prayer.  I held it together for all of this.

I had to be strong for Michael and my children.  We have a very strong love, and I was scared to death I was going to lose him.  Before he went into surgery, I told Mike that he better come back to me.  I told him if he sees a light or any voices telling him to go the other way, he was to fight to get back to me.  He jokingly said he’d telepathically communicate with me half way through the surgery.  I laughed it off.

A few hours in, my oldest son, Kyle, asked me if they were about half way through.  I thought about what Mike had said.  Suddenly there was a laptop on my lap and a video playing.  It was Mike making jokes about what he assumed was going on in the waiting room while he was in surgery.  He also took time to tell me how much he loved me, and that he was never going to leave me.  Many laughs and tears filled the waiting room as everyone passed the lap top around.  It was amazing, and I had a peaceful feeling everything would be ok.

The procedure was not without difficulty, but Transplant Surgeon Dr. Steve Woodle, who himself is a liver transplant recipient, performed the operations superbly.  The donor kidney began functioning immediately and Mike’s cheeks filled with color.  Since the transplant, both men are doing great and expected to live long and healthy lives.

Tim gave me my husband back, and he gave my children their dad.  We cannot express our gratitude enough.  Donation is an incredible gift.  It is the gift of life.  Everyone can show their support for helping people in need, simply by registering as an organ donor.

Tim owns a successful restaurant in Louisville called Mulligan’s.  Mulligan’s means second chance, and Tim gave us the ultimate second chance.  Like Tim, everyone can register to be a hero.  Join the KY Organ Donor Registry –  You can give hope to more than 80,000 people waiting for kidney transplants.

-As told by Leigh Ann Saylor, Mike’s wife
(Mike pictured middle right with arm around his donor, Tim – with their wives and children posing for a Christmas Card the Saylor Family sent with the words “BELIEVE in Love, in Faith, in Miracles.”)