July 10, 2015

‘Part of our life’s path’: Fellow parishioners share special bond of life, faith through transplant surgeries

Marcia Adams, left, and Deb Dalley kneel in prayer on June 24 in St. Vincent de Paul Church in Shelby County. Earlier this year, Dalley donated a kidney to Adams. Both are members of the Batesville Deanery faith community. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Marcia Adams, left, and Deb Dalley kneel in prayer on June 24 in St. Vincent de Paul Church in Shelby County. Earlier this year, Dalley donated a kidney to Adams. Both are members of the Batesville Deanery faith community. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

SHELBY COUNTY—Two fellow parishioners, acquainted with each other but not close friends, happen to see each other in a business and strike up a conversation. This kind of meeting can occur at any time, and one might not think twice about it.

But a conversation in a bank in Shelbyville about a year ago between Deb Dalley and Marcia Adams, both members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County, changed their lives forever.

In late spring last year, Adams’ doctors told her that polycystic kidney disease had decreased the function of her kidneys so much that she needed to have a transplant.

The hereditary disease had caused Adams’ mother and brother to have transplants. When her doctors told her the news, they encouraged her to tell everyone she knew about it and to ask if they would be willing to be tested as a possible donor.

Yet Adams was reticent to do so.

“I didn’t want to jeopardize someone else’s life,” she said.

Nonetheless, on that June day a little more than a year ago, Adams told Dalley about her condition.

When they discovered they both had the same blood type, Dalley said without hesitation, “I’ll get tested.”

“Sometimes you say something on impulse and you regret it,” Dalley said in an interview with The Criterion. “But I knew what I was saying. I knew I meant it.

“And then I walked out and drove away, and I thought, ‘Wow. That was the Holy Spirit. I know I can do this if it works out.’ Honestly, I just knew that it was the right thing.”

Over the course of the next several months, Dalley underwent a battery of tests to determine if she could be a possible donor for Adams. Each step along the way, she was told that she could back out. She never did.

Earlier this year, it was finally determined that Dalley was an eligible donor. On April 15, she gave a kidney to Adams in two surgeries at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.

“Life seems more precious to me now because Deb gave me a second chance at life,” Adams said. “I feel God still has plans for me on Earth, so that is why he has not taken me to be with him.”

She paused and considered the place in her life of her first grandchild, who was born last fall.

“He’s also keeping me here to love and teach my grandson,” said Adams with emotion. “I want to be able to teach my grandson about God and about the Church.”

Adams’ faith was never shaken when her kidneys were failing her and her future was unknown.

“I prayed a lot,” she said. “I never did lose faith. I knew that my mother and brother had gone through it. I just prayed that I could do it. I prayed to God to keep me strong.”

Letting her thoughts go back over the months leading up to the transplant surgeries, Dalley was similarly filled with emotion.

“Sometimes, I’d have to sneak out of church because I’d be bawling, not because I was afraid but because it was so real,” Dalley said through tears. “This was my chance to show God how much I love him.

“And I love Marcia. She’s another human being trying to just do the best she can in this life to take care of her family. It was a wonderful opportunity.”

In the weeks leading up to the surgeries, Dalley said that God “would throw little Scripture [verses] in my head.”

As her husband drove her to the hospital for her surgery, Dalley posted on her Facebook page, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118:24).

Her faith remained with her as she was being wheeled into surgery with three nurses standing around her.

“We were all holding hands in a circle and I said, ‘Will you say the “Our Father” with me?’ And they did,” Dalley recalled. “They’re all smiling and so sweet. And then I said, ‘O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in thee.’ ”

In the nearly two months since the surgery, Adams has had to be hospitalized a couple of times because of dehydration, because her new kidney “was working better than what my body could keep up with.”

Dalley had given her, according to Adams’ doctors, “a Cadillac of a kidney.”

As time has gone on, Adams’ body is adjusting to her new kidney. But she still worries about the ongoing effects of the transplant on Dalley.

“I still pray. I don’t want something to happen to you,” Adams said with emotion to Dalley, her fellow parishioner who has become so much more to her.

“If it did, it was meant to be,” Dalley replied, reaching out to her friend’s hand. “This was part of our life’s path. We both help people in our path. We do.”

As it is, Dalley is in good health and expects to be well into the future.

“I’ll probably do just fine,” Dalley said, “because I’ll take better care of myself now than I would if I would have had two kidneys.”

In fact, she hopes that other people will consider offering themselves as a possible kidney donor.

“I think people might be afraid of donation,” Dalley said. “ … My life expectancy is very similar to what it would have been beforehand, as long as I take good care of myself. You can do this and go about your business.”

Part of her business is to be active in her parish and in the broader community. In particular, Dalley has done much to rally people to help Adams and her husband Dave, who was treated for cancer shortly before Adams underwent transplant surgery.

With both spouses off work for a good while, Dalley set up a page on a fundraising website as a means for the people of Shelby County and beyond to help Marcia and Dave. The page can be found at www.gofundme.com/daveandmarcia.

The members of St. Vincent Parish reached out with prayers to help both Adams and Dalley in a special Mass and celebration of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick prior to the transplant surgeries.

Franciscan Sister Joan Miller, St. Vincent’s parish life coordinator, was impressed by the way the faith community rallied around the pair.

“I was proud of them,” Sister Joan said. “This really is a Christian community. It’s obvious that they care for each other. They pray for each other.”

Being in a Christian community means recognizing that blessings come out of giving of one’s self to help others in their need. Dalley recognized that in her relationship with Adams, and takes joy in it.

“Everybody’s like, ‘I’m so glad. Marcia’s so lucky,’ ” Dalley said. “I’m like, ‘I’m lucky, too,’ because this has been the coolest thing. It makes your faith that much stronger. It cements it, because we needed him [God] so badly. And our Church family and our friends and family have been fantastic.”

She hopes that the example she and Adams have given to other people will inspire them to think of other people first and help them in their need in all areas of life.

“When you know somebody who actually does something kind of crazy like we did, maybe, just maybe, somebody else is going to think, ‘I wonder what I could do to help?,’ ” Dalley said. “You hope it’s contagious. Maybe we helped somebody’s faith along the way. I hope we did.” †

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