A Long Lost Friend Donates a Kidney
Belinda Ball of Tulsa was born with a congenital birth defect. Her kidneys are connected, forming a shape resembling a horseshoe. She almost died at age 3 and received a catheter in kindergarten. Now 55 years old, she has struggled with kidney issues her entire life.
Among other things, her urinary tract was surgically rerouted, which seemed to work until a few years ago when she was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney failure. It was just a matter of time before she would need a kidney transplant. Belinda’s husband, Tim, was set to be the donor. However late in the game his test scores came back too high, removing him as a possible candidate. Ball was put on the transplant list in Texas in 2012. Because of her small size, she is 5 feet 4 inches and weighs 88 pounds, she was told she would most likely need a pediatric kidney. The wait for pediatric donations is even longer than for adult organ donations. She prepared herself for a long ride. Belinda posted her plight on Facebook. Seeing the post, several of her high school friends got tested, but there was no match. Months later, she got an instant message from Claudia Smith, saying, “I saw your post about no donor matches, I have gone thru the initial testing, I have more testing, but I’m a match”.
Belinda and Claudia had been friends in elementary, middle and high school. They had lost touch and really hadn’t spoken in 36 years. Belinda remembers a conversation they had in the third grade. “I told her someday, I was probably going to need a kidney transplant,” remembers Ball. “Claudia told me she would always keep me in her prayers.” Smith recalls the same exchange. “We were pretty young, and I felt a lot of concern for her. After she told me, I was walking down the hallway at elementary school that day and prayed for her. I told God that I would help her if I could.”
Smith turned out to be a perfect match. The transplant was scheduled to take place in Texas, but was railroaded by insurance issues. Ball started the process all over again at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Smith, who lives in Texas, traveled to Oklahoma to be retested in September 2015. Despite daily phone contact, it was the first time the two women had actually seen each other in decades. “We picked up right where we left off. I got my best friend back. It is like we have never been apart,” says Ball.
The transplant will take place on Dec. 21, just in time for the holidays. “Claudia’s dedication has not wavered. She is truly my angel,” claims Ball. “And talk about a Christmas present. She is literally giving me the gift of life. She is truly amazing.”
Smith says she is merely keeping a childhood promise to keep Belinda in her prayers. She says God helped her make the decision to donate. “I’m in awe God heard my prayer to help my best friend and answered it,” she says. “I know he has some amazing plans in store for us!”