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Motivated by Faith, Christian Doctor from Stanford Donates Kidney to Patient's Son: 'I Knew God Would Work a Miracle'

( [email protected] ) May 09, 2016 01:36 PM EDT
In an amazing story of selflessness, compassion and faith, a California doctor donated her kidney on behalf of her patient's son despite her cultural beliefs and the possibility of long-term health challenges.
Photo Credit: Stanford Healthcare

In an amazing story of selflessness, compassion and faith, a California doctor donated her kidney on behalf of her patient's son despite her cultural beliefs and the possibility of long-term health challenges.

Several years ago, Ester Kwok, MD, a Stanford (Calif.) Medicine affiliated physician through University HealthCare Alliance at Kwok Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, was made aware that Jonathan Chan was in dire need of a kidney. Chan, the son of one of Dr. Kwok's longtime patients, had lived with chronic kidney disease for more than three decades. His two previous kidney transplants had failed, and his odds of finding a donation match were incredibly slim due to his unique blood type.

Strangely, another one of Dr. Kwok's acquaintances - her medical assistant - was also in need of a kidney.

"I am a Christian, and I believe that God puts us in situations where he wants us to be his instruments," Dr. Kwok told The Gospel Herald. "We prayed for healing, and it wasn't happening. I thought it was kind of coincidental that two individuals I knew needed kidney transplants - I thought, 'Maybe God isn't healing because he wanted me to do something.'"

Dr. Kwok felt the Lord calling her to donate a kidney; however, kidney donation went against her religious convictions.

"I knew that God was able to heal, and my hope was that a miracle would happen of God's doing without man needing to step in," she said. "But in this instance, I knew I just needed to walk by faith and be used by God - I knew a miracle would still happen."

She revealed that donating an organ also went against her culture: "One of the reasons Asians cannot donate is because we believe that our bodies are given from our mothers, and you have to honor your mother by honoring your body by keeping it whole and not doing any harm to it," she explained.

But because she was raised as a Christian, Dr. Kwok knew her mother would understand that God's will must be done: "As Christians, we shouldn't just talk about helping others, but we also need to act," she said. "By acting, I'm actually internalizing and expressing what my mother taught me. What bigger way to honor what she is than act up on what she taught me?"

Prompted by Hebrews 10:38, which reads "The just shall live by faith" and backed by her husband and four children, Dr. Kwok decided to join the National Kidney Registry. While her staff member eventually received a kidney match, Dr. Kwok found out she was not a match for Mr. Chan. Nevertheless, she joined the national registry for chain donation, trusting that God could work a miracle.

Nearly three years later, Dr. Kwok received a phone call, alerting her that through a live donor match and a 12-person donation chain, she would be able to help Mr. Chan get a new kidney.

While Dr. Kwok did not donate her kidney directly to Mr. Chan, her organ went to a different kidney patient whose originally intended donor was not an exact match. A similar cycle continued, and Mr. Chan was eventually able to receive a new kidney.

However, Mr. Chan attempted to back out the surgery, telling Dr. Kwok he was concerned for her health. He revealed he had pondered removing her from the registry even though his chances of getting a kidney without her donation was impossible.

Despite the possible health risks, Dr. Kwok was determined to move forward in faith.

"I told him that mine was a free gift and he needed only accept just as eternal life was a free gift that I accepted, and since I was given eternal life, then how could I not give a small part of me when asked," she said.

"My motivation was this: Jesus died for me on the cross while I was yet a sinner, while I was yet a stranger," she added.  "He gave me eternal life, and how can I not then reach out to somebody to give one organ to give them more time to believe in Christ, to give them time to find grace? I've been given so much -- why not give a little back? I gave under anesthesia, but Jesus gave without anesthesia for all men. If he did this, how can I not do what God asked of me?"

Both Dr. Kwok and Mr. Chan underwent surgery June 2015. However, the story didn't end there. When Dr. Kwok went in for her first checkup after donation, she ran into Mr. Chan and learned that he had been in and out of the hospital because his body was on the verge of rejecting the donated kidney.

"I said, 'Lord, I went through all of this - I never pondered that rejection might be something that would happen. Did I go through all of this for nothing?'" she recalled.

Dr. Kwok heard the voice of God speak to her, gently reprimanding her for doubting him: "I allowed this to happen," he said. "You must have faith, I wouldn't have done all of this for nothing."

One year later, Dr. Kwok saw Mr. Chan again - except this time, he was healthy and whole.

"Faith is believing everything is going to be okay," Dr. Kwok said. "I couldn't see [Mr. Chan] was going to be okay, but I felt in my heart he was going to be okay, and learning to trust in God in spite of not being able to see ahead is what faith is. I don't know God has in store for me in the future, but I know that whatever it is, I just have to walk and trust him."

She added, "In hindsight it's easy to see faith, but it's hard to see looking forward. I've learned to say 'yes' to whatever he gives me, and my faith grows, and he gives me more each time. I wonder what else he has for me in store."