Todd Trabert knew that he easily could have ignored doing anything about Clewin McPherson’s email plea asking family and friends to get tested to see if they might be a match for him. McPherson’s kidneys were failing, and after two years on a waiting list, he was running out of time. He couldn’t be on dialysis forever.
The 32-year-old information security consultant, who lives in New York, didn’t have any signs of irregularity in his health. But after a yearly medical exam, he received a call the next day with an urgent request to go to the emergency room because his kidneys were failing.
“To this day, we aren’t sure why they failed,” McPherson said. “None of the tests they would do were determinant of what caused them to fail.”
The best guess is that he picked up a virus or bacteria that attacked them and rendered them useless. He spent four-and-a-half hours, three days a week on dialysis. He was on the waiting list for four states, all within two hours of where he lives. But he continued to wait.
It was lunch with a friend that changed the outcome. She thought he should send an email with the information to his family and friends.
“She suggested I let them make the decision, not me,” McPherson said.
Trabert, 30, who grew up in Naperville and graduated from Naperville North High School in 2001, read the email and knew he had three options.
“I could pretend I didn’t see the email,” said Trabert, who now works for the city of Cincinnati as an engineer, “or I could pray for him and hope that someone helps him out. Or I could do the whole thing: pray and put myself out there.”
Both Trabert and his wife, Janice, were tested. While Janice wasn’t a match, Trabert was, and on Oct. 10, he will donate a kidney to his friend.
Trabert and McPherson became friends through Intervarsity, a Christian fellowship organization, when they were students at Purdue University.
While McPherson was several years ahead of Trabert, they hung out between classes. After graduation, they kept in touch, seeing each other every year or so.
“I had to overcome the selfish part of me that wanted to keep my kidney,” Trabert said.
He acknowledged that he is overly cautious in life, always creating back-up plans, and it would be easy to keep the kidney “just in case.”
Aiding his friend helped him overcome those feelings though.
About 120,000 people are on waiting lists for transplants that will save their lives, including 5,000 Illinois residents. Gift of Hope, the procurement organization that serves most of Illinois and part of Northeastern Indiana, works to get people signed up as potential donors.
“There are a lot of obstacles for people,” said Tony Sullivan, the public relations and communications coordinator for the organization. “There is the lack of knowledge about how to register; some people never get around to it.”
And people mistakenly believe their religious affiliation might not allow it, which Sullivan said also is a myth.
“Almost all religions in existence support it in one way or another.”
Recently, Gift of Hope was part of a student activities fair at North Central College to encourage college students to register.
“We’ve identified college students as a group of people untapped as far as registering as organ and tissue donors,” he said.
“People who give kidneys and other organs are noble people,” Trabert said. “I hope I’m that noble.”
“Todd has always been one of the more caring, nurturing people in my life,” McPherson said. “I don’t know how to say thank you enough.”
While not all donations are made while someone is living, as Sullivan pointed out, “It’s a very simple decision that can benefit so many people.”