Thanks and Giving: A Transplant Story

Twitter helped connect donor and recipient

Kansas pastor Mike Bronson knew for years that a kidney transplant might be necessary. In 2009, it became a reality. His doctors said he was in end stage renal disease and needed a transplant.

“Once news became public, I was overwhelmed with the number of people offering to donate a kidney, Bronson says.

Family members, friends and members of his church all wanted to help.

 

-Transplant recipient Mike Bronson serves as pastor at West Haven Baptist Church in Kansas

 

“Another man in my church went through the entire battery of tests. At the very end, he was disqualified due to a ‘minor’ heart problem. It turns out that heart problem became major. He had two successful surgeries since but the problem may not have been uncovered in time without his desire to donate.”

Bronson tweeted about his search for a donor. That’s how he re-connected with Tonya Blythe, whom he had baptized several years before.

“Mike was a pastor at my church in Jefferson City, MO, but he had moved away and we lost touch,” Blythe recalls. She was still following him on Twitter.  “By the time I became aware of his need, he’d been on the waiting list for a year.”

Blythe contacted Bronson and began the process of getting matched.

“I thought, ‘This won’t work,’” she said, “But I kept getting green lights.”

Blythe turned out to be a match, but there was one thing that still wasn’t right.

“We didn’t feel comfortable at our transplant center, so right before we were going to be approved for transplant, we started looking elsewhere,” Blythe said.
 
-Kidney donor Tonya Blythe says the transplant will teach her children the importance of giving selflessly

 

“I stumbled across The Nebraska Medical Center,” Bronson said. “I sent Sue Miller an email and our experience was tremendous. Sue gave my wife and me a tour and after speaking with Tonya and her husband Jon, we were convinced God was sending us to Omaha.”

“We went out on a limb and said, ‘Let’s go to Nebraska and start over,’” Blythe said.

As the donor, Blythe says she had no second thoughts when it came time to come to the medical center to give her former pastor one of her kidneys; especially when she learned it would not affect her ability to have another child.

“As it was happening, I had this overwhelming feeling of, ‘Why don’t more people do this?’” she said. “This is a legacy of giving. I want others to know that giving is important. I want my children to understand: this is who we are as a family.”

 

-Transplant recipient Mike Bronson stands with his family at his son’s recent wedding

 

Three years later, Bronson says he is still sometimes at a loss for words when he thinks about the gift he received.

“You would think that a pastor who writes sermons and Bible studies weekly would be able to express himself well, but I still struggle to express my gratitude with clarity,” he says. “I still cannot believe that she was willing to subject herself to numerous tests, pain, great inconvenience and surgery and to save my life.”

Kidney disease continues to challenge Bronson even after the transplant. Continued treatment here and in Kansas City has slowed the disease’s progress and he remains optimistic and thankful. Not only for his donor, but also for Sue Miller; transplant coordinators Lori Schmida and Kim McAnally as well as co-directors of the kidney transplant program Drs. Cliff Miles and Michael Morris.

 

-Kidney recipient Mike Bronson talks with his donor Tonya Blythe after the transplant at The Nebraska Medical Center in 2009

 

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