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For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).
I have many reasons to be grateful. This year I am remembering the astounding miracle of the Lord’s saving my son from AIDS and kidney failure.
On April 1, 1990, my wife and I rushed our fifteen-year old son, Matt, to the hospital because he was bleeding internally. The next day we were told that he had end-stage renal disease. Kidney failure. For an unknown reason his kidneys had stopped functioning.
Initially we thought that the internal bleeding was due to his having been born with hemophilia, an inherited bleeding disorder. Compared to a normal person, Matt produces less than one percent of the blood-clotting agent. The doctors had ruled out hemophilia as the culprit, but Matt’s hemophilia was complicating the issue.
Our concern over Matt’s hemorrhaging was the latest in a long list of health problems. But we had hope of at least controlling the bleeding. Some years earlier, a medical breakthrough had promised a dramatic lifestyle change for the hemophiliac communityFactor. Researchers had developed a method of isolating and extracting the deficient coagulant in the blood. Now home infusions to coagulate blood could be administered in minutes rather than in hours at the hospital.
As marvelous as was this life-saving Factor, it had a deadly side effect. Few of us knew that the blood pool from which Factor was extracted was contaminated with the HIV virus. In fact, during the 1980s, substantially 98% of hemophiliacs who had received Factor became infected. Most would eventually die of AIDS.
As information trickled down to us, the frightening possibility of AIDS became a concern. Over the years, Matt had watched friends, with whom he had attended hemophilia camp, contract HIV, develop full-blown AIDS and die. My wife’s hemophiliac cousin had been one of the casualties. As examples of innocent populations being decimated by plagues, one is reminded of the diseases that the white man brought to the Hawaiians and the American Indians. For hemophiliacs, the very medicine that they needed to stay alive was killing them!
To appreciate our story, I must step back in time.
I had spent much of 1987 consumed with the impression that Matt’s life was in danger, but I did not know why. Hemophilia? AIDS? Something else? All I knew was he needed protection through a priesthood blessing. As I stated, at that time, we had very little information about the HIV hazard to hemophiliacs, and, of course, we had no idea that his kidneys were in the slow process of failing.
I continued to have the continuous nagging impression that Matt’s life was or would be in peril, so I began to pray for guidance. I fasted. I attended the temple. I made the subject a matter of ongoing contemplation.
One night, after nine months’ effort to receive inspiration, I was reading the 7th chapter of Alma that speaks of Christ’s suffering for all of our afflictions. Suddenly, understanding burst upon my mind: Matt’s affliction–hemophilia and whatever else–had already been faced by Jesus and overcome by him in the Atonement. The keys of healing and deliverance were now with Christ, if we could gain permission to access them.
I suddenly felt both confidence and urgency. Matt could be protected and healed by an appeal to the Savior, and Matt needed a priesthood blessing now! I immediately called upon two men of extraordinary faith and experience to help with the administration. We all prepared as best we could, then on a designated evening, we knelt together in prayer and pled for the Lord to turn specific keys of the Atonement in Matt’s behalf. The experience was powerful. Promises of protection, healing and long life were pronounced. A record was made of the blessing, and we were at peace.
Over the next few years Matt continued to receive Factor as more and more information was being released about hemophiliacs’ contracting the AIDS virus. Our greatest scare came late one night when we received an urgent phone call warning us to avoid a certain batch of Factor because the pharmaceutical company had discovered it to be contaminated with HIV. Only hours earlier, we had given Matt an injection of that medicine. Today, hemophilia medicines are subjected to heat treatments and freezing to ensure their purity, making HIV contamination a remote possibility. But in the 1980s, no such precautions were taken.
Matt experienced a miracle? He was one of the 2% who never did contract HIV, although his doctors confirm that he was exposed to it. The physicians were perplexed and asked for samples of his “rare” blood to help in HIV research. It didn’t help them. A priesthood blessing cannot be seen under a microscope. We knew we had been blessed. Heavenly Father had us sent a warning and a solution, and we were the recipients of divine intervention. Nevertheless, we had no comprehension of the priesthood blessing’s far-reaching effects. More miracles would flow from that priesthood blessing.
April 2, 1990The day after Matt had begun to hemorrhage internally, my wife and I arrived at the hospital only to be rushed into a quiet room by a doctor who told us that Matt’s kidneys had failed. The doctor couldn’t understand why Matt wasn’t in a coma. My wife and I were devastated. We were suddenly faced with the very real possibility that our son might die.
Reaching out for help, I phoned my father-in-law and our bishop to help me give Matt a blessing. For the two hours that we waited for them to arrive, I walked the hospital grounds weeping and praying for peace. But nothing came. Finally, I arrived at a decision: no matter what happened, I would allow nothing to turn me away from God. I would trust him. I said aloud, “If you take my son, it will be hard for me, but I won’t stop believing in you.”
Later, as we priesthood holders gathered around Matt’s bed, Grandpa offered a blessing of healing. His eloquent words acknowledged a power beyond our own, and he pled that that power be invoked in Matt’s behalf. When he finished, I stepped back to the far side of the room as loved ones stood by Matt and talked to him. Then our bishop turned and walked toward me. Placing his hands on both of my shoulders, he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Matt will be alright.” His words shot through me like lightning, and something like a voice spoke to my mind as if to say, “That is right!” For the first time, I felt peace.
For the next three months our family life was put on hold as my wife and I took tests to see which of us might qualify to donate a kidney. Dialysis was now keeping Matt alive. We were soon to discover that becoming a donor was not an easy task. One must be in prime health and have no previous history of serious illness.
After taking a particular test, the doctors told me that I could not be considered as a donor because, at age eleven, I had contracted nephritis, a complication of strep that attacks the kidneys.
At that young age, I had nearly died of kidney failure! Now the doctors were telling me that my kidneys had surely been damaged. They rejected me!
I couldn’t accept the news. Some months earlier, before Matt’s kidney failure, I had read of Senator Jake Garn’s donating a kidney to his daughter. The Spirit had whispered to me: “One day you will do that too.” It was a strange impression that I had tried to dismiss, only to have it surface again and again. Now, in the middle of donor tests, the impression felt like a clear directive. I was not about to be told by doctors that I could not be considered as a donor.
On the day that I had been rejected, I drove home from the hospital concerned that the burden of donating a kidney would fall to my wife. I was confused about the former impression that I had received and I began to offer a vocal prayer. Suddenly, the thought came into my mind, Go and ask your bishop for a blessing and your kidneys will be fine.
I immediately drove to the Bishop’s house and explained my feelings. He listened. He understood. He prayed. Then he laid his hands on my head, implored God for intervention then promised that my kidneys would be healed and I could donate.
I returned to the hospital and begged the doctors to allow me to continue to take the donor tests along side my wife. Eventually, the doctors relented, but held out little hope. No former nephritic patient had ever donated a kidney, they said. For that matter, only one other hemophiliac had ever received a donated kidney. From the onset, our case would be rare, if not improbable.
For the next month, my wife and I endured a barrage of donor tests. Then the result came. My kidneys were perfect! I was to be chosen to be the donor.
The next sets of tests were difficult and invasive. One test revealed that I had been born with WPW Syndrome, a rare heart condition that affects one in 100,000 people. An extra electrical pathway to the heart causes periodic palpitations. I could be on the operating table, I was told, and my heart might go into an arrhythmia and I could die. The transplant date was put on hold.
As I prayed for guidance and received an impression to once again ask for a blessing from my bishop. Once again, my bishop humbly laid his hands upon my head, petitioned God for help and promised a solution. When I left his office, I had a feeling of peace, and I returned to the hospital to take extensive tests on my heart. The results came a week later. “You do have WPW,” said a voice on the phone, “but it doesn’t appear to be serious enough to stop you from donating.” A new transplant date was set, and I entered the final phase of donor testing, the phase that included an angiogram.
“Your plumbing is abnormal,” a doctor told me as he studied the results of the angiogram.
“Abnormal?” I was stunned.
Abnormal proved to be an understatement. A normal kidney has attached to it one vein and one artery. In my case, one of my kidneys had two veins and two arteries and the other kidney had two veins and three arteries! This situation posed at least two problems: How would the doctors reroute everything inside me? How would the doctors splice into Matt a kidney that had too many holes?
This time the transplant came to a complete halt. Specialists from around the country were consulted. In the meantime, our family did the only thing we could do: we went to our knees. Our bishop was our answer. In our time of need, and for the third time, he laid his hands on my head, pled for an outpouring of inspiration to be with the doctors as they weighed the options, and made a promise that all would be well.
Again, we felt peace. When the call came a week later, the transplant coordinator simply said, “Everything is on for July 3rd. They will take your left kidney.” No other explanation was given.
Today Matt is married and has three daughters. He has received his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. He works for the Church in the Welfare Department and helps others through their difficulties in life.
One night in 1990, in a dark hospital room, I sat with Matt as he was suffering from a high fever, the result of yet another complication due to his failed kidneys. He thought that he couldn’t take any more and he wondered out loud if there was a God, or if God existed, Matt wondered why he would allow such suffering. Matt’s answer came quietly and yet had a profound effect on him. Beyond all the miracles that had and would result from priesthood blessings and treatments, in a very private way, in the crucible of adversity, Matt found his God who would provide him healing and see him through.
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Click here (www.pillarsofzion.com) to download FREE copies of the Pillars of Zion series.