Staples won’t just be at the bedside, however.
He’s the one donating a kidney.
The woman whose life he may be saving is Jennifer Borders, who turned 40 in December.
“It’s special to me that anyone would be willing to do this,” said Borders. “And I think Derek’s as excited about it as I am.”
“It’s an honor for me,” said the 51-year-old Staples, who doctors say has the kidneys of a 20-year-old. “I feel like this is the role that God has chosen for me to play in the lives of this family. I’m proud to be able to do it.”
Five years ago, Jennifer’s husband, Jason Borders, was on the committee appointed with the task of hiring a new pastor for Jacksonville First Baptist Church. Among the hundreds of resumes the committee received was one from Derek Staples.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Borders and other members of the committee traveled to a church in southern Missouri to hear Staples preach.
On Dec. 1, 2006, they called Staples and offered him the job.
Five years later, almost to the day, Staples’ phone rang again. Only this time, the caller on the other end was from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, informing Staples that he was a donor match for Jennifer Borders, who was in renal failure and in desperate need of a kidney transplant.
There’s no doubt in Jason Borders’ mind that the right candidate was chosen to lead his church.
“When I think back to seeing him preach, meeting with him and then I think about the resumes — and we got hundreds — I couldn’t in a million years have imagined what he would come to mean not only to our congregation, but to our family,” Jason Borders said. “That’s how we know this has all been orchestrated by God. There’s just no other way to explain it.”
Diagnosed at age 14
Jennifer Borders is among the 26 million Americans with chronic kidney disease (CKD), from which more than 70,000 people die each year. This will be her third kidney transplant.
Jennifer was first diagnosed with CKD when she was 14. By the age of 16, her kidneys were failing, and she received a transplant from her mother.
Twelve years later, she found herself again in need of a transplant, which she received from a member of Jacksonville First Baptist Church. The woman, who was in her early 30s, had recently lost her husband to heart and liver failure. He had spent years waiting for a donor match, only to be deemed too ill for a transplant.
“It was kind of her way of helping someone when it hadn’t happened for her husband,” Jennifer said.
The reason Jennifer’s first two donor kidneys failed isn’t fully understood. The first time was possibly because she was a teenager and didn’t take proper care of her body, plus doctors didn’t fully recognize the severity of her illness.
She is also the mother of two children — ages 17 and 13 — which is normally out of the question for people with kidney disease or who are recent transplant recipients.
“That certainly took its toll,” Jennifer said. “As a young mother, I probably didn’t take care of myself as I should have. But as any mother knows — the children come first.
“Now that I’m older, I know my body better. Plus, medications have come so far. … Doctors say this kidney could last me 15 to 20 years.”
According to the Alabama Kidney Foundation, more than 375,000 Americans suffer from CKD and need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. Due to an organ shortage, more than 75,000 patients are waiting for a kidney transplant.
Jennifer’s chances of finding a donor match were worse than average, because her blood type is O-negative. “I can give to anybody,” she said. “But if we were to have to go back on the transplant list, we would have looked at waiting for at least five to seven years. It’s a miracle how it’s worked out for me.”
Waiting for a match
Jennifer started going into renal failure in July. On Aug. 7, the congregation of Jacksonville First Baptist Church held a special prayer meeting for Jennifer and Jason.
After the service, Staples remembers telling Jason, “We’re going to step back and just be amazed at what God is going to do to reward her faithfulness. …
“I had no idea that would have anything to do with me.”
By October, Jennifer was placed on the transplant list and began dialysis three days a week, for three hours a day. Friends and family as well as members of the congregation began submitting their blood for testing in hopes of finding a donor match.
That’s when Staples’ phone rang.
Being a blood match isn’t enough. Staples had to go through a battery of tests and meet with various doctors and surgeons, to make sure his kidney would be suitable.
Three days before Christmas, Jennifer Borders learned that she had found her third kidney transplant match.
“The church has wrapped its arms around my whole family,” she said.
Staples has always understood that his role as pastor is to guide the spiritual lives of his congregation. By donating a kidney, he hopes to exemplify a deeper commitment.
Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“I’ve preached on that text many, many times,” Staples said. “But how often I’ve asked myself if I ever really could do that — love my neighbor as I love myself?
“I consider it an honor that the Lord’s seen me worthy, to not only help Jason and Jennifer, but also to show our church in a very tangible way, how to truly love their neighbor.”
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.
The transplant blog
Jennifer and Jason Borders are documenting their lives on a newly created blog in an effort to bring awareness to kidney disease.
“We wanted to put a face and a family to this, because there are so many people out there who need help, people who die on dialysis while waiting to find a donor,” Jennifer said.
“It doesn’t have to happen. People can help to save lives.”
Visit Jennifer and Jason’s transplant blog at 2givelife.wordpress.com.