On Thursday, May 30, Kerry D. Warren, Sr., 43, of Pell City received his long-awaited donation after living on dialysis three days a week for almost three years.
The donor, Barbara Williams of Talladega, attended Rushing Springs Missionary Baptist Church with Warren. However, until the day Warren spoke to his fellow congregation about his need, the two had not formally met, and both feel it was the will of God which brought them together to save Warren’s life.
Warren lost his first kidney in the early 2000s when tests performed after a motorcycle accident revealed the presence of renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer, and the lemon-sized mass was removed after the fateful discovery. Over the course of a decade Warren attended his regular cancer screenings and remained cancer free until his doctor finally cleared him to return to a normal life. Warren began experiencing lower back pain in late 2015 and returned to his doctor after dealing with months of fatigue, where they quickly discovered his second kidney failure. Doctors of St. Vincent’s removed his remaining kidney in 2016.
The loss of both his kidneys required Warren to attend dialysis three times a week until a suitable donor could be found. Living without either kidney forced him to live a restrictive lifestyle; he had strict limits on the amounts of liquid he could consume which included certain foods with high liquid content, and long-term travel demanded arrangements to attend dialysis out of state. Numerous things can go wrong during dialysis which required him to focus on recovery so he would be able to attend his next treatment.
According to organdonor.gov, as of January 2019 over 113,000 people are on the National Organ Donor waiting list, but only 21,167 kidney transplants were performed in 2018. Finding a suitable donor is a long and often difficult process. While 95 percent of adults support organ donation, only 58 percent are signed up to donate, and then only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way viable for organ transplant. Many people may not be aware of their ability to be a living donor.
Warren finally found his donor, whom he now considers his guardian angel, when he suddenly felt compelled at Rushing Springs Missionary Baptist Church in late 2017 to ask to speak before the congregation. He spoke about organ donation and expressed his need.
“I was always open about my condition,” said Warren, but also said that neither his mother nor his wife, Talika, were eligible to donate because of their medical history. He had asked other people in his life who said they’d look into it, but none followed through.
“I wouldn’t be angry if they refused,” he said, acknowledging it is a difficult decision to make.
Warren said when Williams first approached him during church, he was at first dismissive, but Williams persisted in getting the information to begin the testing process.
Williams said, “I never thought twice.”
She believes that God compelled her to give her kidney to Warren.
“My thing is giving!” she said, “It’s like a second nature.”
Barbara Williams works at the Lincoln McDonald’s, but she dedicates a lot of her time to budgeting and “extreme couponing” so that she can buy gifts for everyone at Christmas. Warren knew she did this for everybody at church, but since they have known each other he learned she also donates gifts to faculty at Lincoln Elementary School, the Presbyterian Home in Talladega, and to her coworkers at the restaurant.
Warren said, “She gives all that on a McDonald’s wage!”
Williams said she had no problem following the necessary steps to become a donor.
“Some visits could take all day, but the doctors are very up-front about those days,” she said.
Williams and Warren both want to educate people about the process of organ donation. Williams was fully recovered and discharged from UAB by the next day, but Warren requires a little more time to recover.
Williams’ oldest brother, Willie Garrett, died of kidney failure years prior, and had declined an organ donation of his own, feeling it was his time. After Williams learned she was a match, she went to his grave and there prayed for his blessing to bestow her kidney to Warren, and then also prayed to her late grandmother and father to watch over her so that she would wake up after the transplant.
Warren said it must be the will of God. He met his wife, then shortly after he changed churches and met Pastor Clarence Woodward, who allowed him to speak and put him in the right place to meet Williams. He wants to use his new life and freedom to begin to provide for his family again, and perhaps go back into business for himself.
Warren said that Williams wants no recognition or reward, but he and his wife have created a GoFundMe for her. If you’d like to show support for her do so at this link: