Sisters' prayers answered in hour of need
Priest's kidney could help save the day
In the past year, Kim Polhemus has relied on her faith to cope with a progressive, genetic illness that has had her and one of her sisters needing donated kidneys.
Their prayers have now been answered.
"We have felt God's grace throughout this whole process, at every turn," said Ms. Polhemus, the 56-year-old senior warden at St. John's Episcopal Church in New Milford.
Although the youngest sibling in the family, Michelle Ward of San Francisco had been approved last August as a donor for either Polhemus or their sister, Kathy Murphy, 53, of New Hartford, they were still a kidney short.
Polhemus and Murphy have polycystic kidney disease, an illness that caused the death of their father, Ted Ward.
Just before the holidays, the women learned about a second kidney donor -- the Rev. Greg Welin, the priest-in-charge at St. John's Episcopal Church.
"Here it was, right under our nose. It was very exciting," said Polhemus, the married mother of four adult sons. "It was life-altering, literally."
Last summer, to improve their odds for finding a second kidney donor, the sisters had begun canvassing family and friends.
Polhemus wrote a letter distributed to the St. John's congregation. Ms. Ward created a Facebook page.
The sisters were adamant they didn't want one sister to have a life-enhancing transplant and the other, life-limiting dialysis.
A second donor would give them equal chances at a long, fruitful life, but they hoped to avoid the long waiting lists national organ registries often have.
The siblings were amazed at the response to their appeal. Even strangers were willing to undergo testing to learn if they might be a match. Between 12 and 15 people were tested.
Unbeknownst to Polhemus, Father Welin was one of them. The priest said he was compelled to be tested after reading her letter.
Eight years ago his sister, Susan Mack, 43, had died of cancer. He said he had offered spiritual comfort, but was not able to do anything to save her life.
"This is very tangible, (so it) feels very fulfilling and rewarding," he added. A date for the transplants had not been set recently, but Father Welin said they are likely to occur this summer. Recuperation would take about a month.
The priest applauds the sisters' faithfulness to each other throughout this process.
"As a family, they've lived with this disease very faithfully, supporting each other, even knowing this day would come," Father Welin said. "If only we could all do that. I'm very happy I can help them. It's wonderful, I think."
Ward, long ready to donate her kidney to one of her sisters, is glad she didn't have to make a choice. She said the priest's offer is an "amazing gift" for their entire family.
"We just feel incredibly blessed," Ward remarked.