A brother’s love can be lifesaving. Literally.
Stone Bridge teacher Karl Williams gave his older brother Michael, a diabetic who was diagnosed with kidney failure in January, a kidney to save his life.
“I didn’t want to ask him,” Michael Williams said from his home in Richmond. “If for some reason the kidney failed or my body rejected it, I would’ve felt bad because he would’ve lost his kidney for nothing.”
“I found out in mid-May that I was a good candidate to be a donor,” Karl Williams said. He and his twin brother Kevin were both good matches, but Kevin, who lives in Rhode Island, decided to let Karl be the donor.
“I was somewhat torn, I wish I could’ve been there to do it myself,” Kevin Williams said. “I’m a single father so it would’ve been more of a hardship for me. But if Karl couldn’t do it, I would’ve been glad to.”
“I never considered being a living donor,” said Karl Williams, who’s been signed up as an organ donor for 10 years. “It’s better to get an organ from a living person than a cadaver, especially if it’s a family member.”
THE SURGERY was done at the Hume-Lee Transplant Center in Richmond, where Karl and Michael were surrounded by family members.
“I didn’t think twice about it,” Karl Williams said.
After the surgery, it was difficult to get out of a chair or do any number of simple tasks that he had taken for granted before, he said.
“It’s going to take a while to fully recover, I’m still a little tired and sore on my right side,” Karl said.
His five-year-old son Kolby knows about “Daddy’s boo boo” and knows to be gentle with him, Karl Williams said. “My wife and I talked to our son about the procedure and he knew that after the surgery I wouldn’t be able to pick him up for a while,” he said.
Michael Williams has had a few complications after the surgery.
“I just came out of the hospital in September, my body had some sort of fungus. I felt fine but according to the doctors’ diagnosis, I should’ve felt worse,” Michael Williams said. “They got rid of the fungus and then my body started to reject the kidney, so they changed my medicine and everything’s fine now,” he said. He’ll have to continue monthly hospital visits for a year before the doctors will be convinced his body has accepted the kidney.
“I feel a whole lot better now, I’m not on dialysis any more,” he said. “It really hasn’t changed my life that much, but I am more understanding of life.”
“I’m not as tired as I used to be,” Michael Williams said. “Before I couldn’t cut my yard. I have more energy now and I’m really happy to still be around.”
THE SURGERY WAS done at the end of the last school year, so Karl Williams sent a letter home with his students explaining what was going on and why he’d be out for the last week of school.
“The school didn’t have any problems at all with what I was doing,” Karl Williams said. “The parents were saying how admirable it was for me to do this, but it’s family, there’s no way to say no.”
There’s a joke between Karl and Kevin these days about the kidney Karl is missing.
“Karl jokingly said to me that if he, his son or his dog need a kidney, they’re coming to me,” Kevin Williams said with a laugh. “Hey, you can’t take it with you.”
One of the benefits of being identical twins, if something were ever to happen to Karl, he’d be the best match for his brother or his nephew, Kevin Williams said.
THE BROTHERS HAVE always been close and continue to keep in touch with each other at least weekly, they all said. The surgeries and recoveries have been an act of faith and love on behalf of their family.
“Our parents are very religious and they put their faith in God more than anything,” Kevin Williams said. “My father, who wanted to help out even though he’s 76 years old, knows that worrying won’t solve anything so they pray a lot,” he said.
“Faith is a big part of our lives,” said Mary Jane Williams, Karl’s wife. “We were on everyone’s prayer lists at school and at church.
Mary Jane Williams said that their life has returned to normal after the surgery.
“He’s back at work and he is a little tired, but any kind of surgery will do that to a person,” she said. “He’s back to playing with Kolby.”
“This has brought us closer together as a family, but we were always close,” she said. “That’s his brother, you can’t say no to family.”
Karl, Michael and Kevin Williams also agreed to the importance of being an organ donor. Kevin Williams, who is also a bone marrow donor, said it’s important to lead by example for his two children and he hopes they’ll follow in their family’s footsteps when they get older.
“I’m very fortunate and thank God for my brothers,” Michael Williams said. “I’m very lucky to have them.”
“I have no regrets at all,” Karl Williams said. “I would’ve felt worse if something happened to Michael … I’d never forgive myself.”