“Culture for Service” bringing new life to kidney failure patient

When the Goshen College administration came up with the motto “Culture for Service” I bet they didn’t think it would lead to any life-giving surgical procedures.

For Dan Coyne, an elementary school social worker who graduated from Goshen College in 1980, that GC motto is something that he lives by and as a result, he is donating one of his kidneys to Myra dela Vega, a cashier at his neighborhood grocery store.

Coyne’s relationship with dela Vega started out as a typical customer/clerk relationship.  “I try to make an effort to connect with the people who work in service at the stores I go to, because they’re a human being too,” Coyne said.

It was three years ago when Coyne noticed that dela Vega seemed different.  “She looked sad, disheveled and ashen,” Coyne said.  He politely asked dela Vega what was wrong, and she told him about her renal failure.

At the time, Coyne only offered dela Vega his family’s prayers but through these prayers, he felt led to offer her the possibility of his kidney.  “I’ve been donating blood and platelets for a long time…this just seemed like the right thing to do,” Coyne said.

Originally, dela Vega turned down Coyne’s offer because she anticipated family members from the Philippines to arrive and expected to receive a kidney from her sister.  Once he found out that her sister wasn’t in good enough health to go through with the surgery, Coyne reiterated his offer to dela Vega and started the four month process to check for compatibility.

Dela Vega had already been waiting more than a year for a transplant.  According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, about 83,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant as of January 2010.   “I was told that there was about a 1 in 4000 chance of it being a match,” Coyne said.

Upon finding out that his blood and tissues were a match, Coyne held a family meeting and decided upon a plan for telling dela Vega.  “We decided that the kids would go through the line and give her the card which let her know the good news.  Once she found out, Myra collapsed onto her knees and started crying,” said Coyne.

Coyne does not seem nervous as he looks towards his surgery on March 26 at Northwestern Kovler Organ Transplantation Center in Chicago.  His wife and two kids have been supporting him throughout this process.

“Although there is a chance things can go south, statistically it is more dangerous for me to drive to work than to get this operation,” Coyne said.  “Also, when you donate, you automatically get put at the top of the list if you end up needing a transplant in the future.  If you’re going to give, they make sure you won’t suffer for it.”

What started out as an attempt to connect to another human has transformed into an opportunity to give new life. “Last Sunday, her two kids dropped off a card and flowers.  The card read: ‘thank you for giving our mom a second chance,’” said Coyne.

Written by Sara Alvarez

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