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  • Love—the Risk Worth Taking
  • Joseph Jacobs

My name is Joseph Jacobs, I’m a 59–year–old male living in Sonoma, California with my husband Larry who is 68. We’ve been together for 23 years. We got married in California in June, 2008 a month after the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on same–sex marriage—the day the ban was nullified. On November 23, 2009 I donated my left kidney to Larry.

Larry has had kidney disease most of his adult life, starting in his mid–teens. When we first met he had periodic, painful bouts with kidney stones. At the time I didn’t make much of it since I had known other men with the same problem. Over the next 20 years Larry’s health gradually worsened and he developed type 2 diabetes. On August 25, 2006, Larry experienced renal failure. This was a huge trauma for us both and, frankly, very depressing. We both had a prejudicial dread of hemodialysis, and we learned a lot more about it as it suddenly became part of our lives.

In 2007 we went together to a large medical center for Larry to be evaluated as a kidney transplant recipient. We learned two important things there: 1) Larry would have to lose a significant amount of weight before he could qualify for a transplant; 2) I learned about the living donor option during our orientation. I asked a nurse on the evaluation team to do a cross match on our blood while we were there for Larry’s evaluation. She said this was not normal protocol but since our relationship seemed [End Page 17] so loving she went ahead. At the end of the day she told me we were an exact match. This blew my mind. I did not tell Larry immediately, as I was in a kind of state of shock. When we finally got home that night I told Larry about the test. I had already made up my mind that I would donate. He was crying. It was really unbelievable and a little scary for me. What made me decide to donate? It was quite simply and clearly the right thing to do. There was no pressure of any kind from any person. It’s been said that prayer, genuine prayer, happens silently, internally. This was the case for me. And my prayer was answered with an abundance of grace, silent encouragement and positive confidence. I never had any doubt but that I would survive the surgery well. I did have baseless fears that Larry’s body might reject my kidney and I even became depressed when thinking about what that grieving would be like. Happily, I didn’t dwell on these thoughts.

In the fall of 2008 Larry entered a supervised medical fast program being offered by a nephrologist in the same building as Larry’s dialysis clinic. Over the period of several months Larry lost the weight necessary to qualify for a transplant. In winter of 2008 we talked about the living donor option again and I urged him that if we were going to do this, we had to do it soon because of our ages. We made an appointment with a kidney transplant clinic in Spring of 2009. There were lots of tests for Larry, but even more for me. Finally at the end of the Summer we cleared all the hurdles and they said, “when do you want to do this?” We chose Thanksgiving week since my sister and brother–in–law could come and care for us for two weeks.

The kidney transplant clinic made sure we were prepared for post–surgery care. My elder sister Christine and her husband Ken came from Texas the day before our surgeries and planned a two–week stay. They were to take us to the hospital, bring us home when we were discharged, and care for us during the first week of our recovery at home. Then my youngest sisters, Julie and Joan (twins) arranged to travel from Michigan and Georgia respectively, to arrive the day after Chris and Ken left. They were to stay with us and care for...


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pp. 17-19
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