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Kidney donation leaves two students feeling better

Kidney donation leaves two students feeling better

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Kidney donation leaves two students feeling better

By Larry Macke | Aug. 19, 2009 {1068}

Christians are called to serve others through the virtue of Jesus’ example, and although most pay heed to that mandate to some greater or lesser degree, few are faced with the call to offer a physical piece of themselves. Fewer still heed that call.

Such decisions also do not typically happen in a heartbeat. There’s no transplant surgeon waiting in scrubs for a decision, with the recipient all prepped and sedated. They often happen like so many other decisions that, from a distance, look like leaps of faith: step by step.

Amanda (right) and Noel share a lighthearted moment before surgery. Photo courtesy of Amanda Sentz. Photo #09-1290.

Florida State University senior Amanda Sentz is one who knows about such decisions. Approximately a year ago she decided to offer one of her kidneys to a classmate, a woman she’d known for two years through her involvement with the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Or rather, she took the first step toward what would eventually be a kidney donation.

“It would have gotten a little overwhelming if I didn’t take it step by step,” she said. “I figured, I’m just going to fill out the paperwork, and that’s step one. I do this, and if it works, we’ll move on.”

The need also didn’t emerge overnight. Second-year graduate student Noel Hutchinson had been diagnosed three years ago with the same condition that resulted in a kidney transplant for her brother, donated by their mother, some seven years previously: a rare, recessive genetic disorder that causes the slow breakdown of the kidney filtering system, leading to end-stage renal failure.

The situation had been a periodic topic of concern and prayer within the FSU Wesley congregation of students as Noel’s condition became more pronounced, most prominently in terms of fatigue. Amanda had Noel as a group leader during her freshman year, and so she had always known of the illness. The Rev. Vance Rains, pastor at the Wesley Foundation, recalls Noel’s efforts to manage the condition through diet and medication and that by June 2008 the need for a transplant had become clear.

“So we began to pray on that,” he said, “and we certainly avoided pointing fingers. Decisions like this have to come from within. God put it on Amanda’s heart, and she went and had herself tested.”

Amanda had known she was the same blood type since overhearing that Noel, too, was A-positive, a fact she tucked away in her mind. Three potential donors emerged from among family and friends and one by one were disqualified due to variations in blood type and age. Cross-type transplants do occur, but are generally less successful. Younger kidneys make better transplants. Amanda decided to speak up.

“I told her I was pretty sure that we had the same blood type and asked if there was anything I could do to help,” she related. “She gave me the number for Shands (HealthCare in Gainesville).”

Noel certainly will never forget the moment.

“I felt a lot of emotions at once, because I’d had a number of donors who didn’t work out and had gotten my hopes up before,” she said. “But this was a surreal excitement, is the best way to describe it. When I found out she was the same blood type, I just kind of knew it was going to work out.”

Amanda’s parents, too, might have opted for “surreal” in describing the situation. Many parents take great pride in seeing their children perform acts of service, but most draw the line at choices that involve health risks. The Sentzes struggled to support Amanda, a reaction that was difficult for a daughter who always felt complete support in all endeavors. She felt their love, however, and recognized that they, too, would need to process this little by little.

“With them it was like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m just filling out the paperwork,’ ” she says in recalling early conversations with her parents. “Then they started telling their friends and noticing things on TV about kidney donations, and their friends would tell them stories about people they know and how great it was. They didn’t get to the point of, ‘We’re so happy you’re doing this,’ but rather, ‘We’re proud of you … but still worried.”

The transplant occurred in May. Amanda spent a week in the hospital and another week or two recuperating before she was back to her regular routine. She needs to avoid contact sports — no problem, she says — and certain medications, and she has a few minor souvenir incisions, but she’s doing as well as she ever has. Noel’s journey since the operation has been a little rockier, including a hospitalization for treatment of persistent fever. She feels she’s past these hurdles, however, and is ready for the start of the upcoming semester.

“Kidney disease makes people anemic, and so I was always so tired, but with a functioning kidney my energy level is just through the roof in comparison,” she says. “I feel so blessed and grateful.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Macke is a freelance writer based in Vero Beach, Fla.