QUINCY, Mass. — When a new father from Quincy read that his college buddy’s next-door neighbor in Brookline was ill and in desperate need of a kidney, he did what few people would even consider.
He volunteered to be tested to see if he was a match, our news partners at the Patriot Ledger reported.
Ben Johnston, a 32-year-old songwriting student at Berklee College of Music, decided he would donate a major organ to a total stranger.
The man who needed the kidney was Dr. Ferenc “Frank” Jolesz, 67, who was suffering from kidney failure for the second time. His daughter Marta Jolesz donated a kidney to him about seven years earlier.
“There’s a huge shortage of available organs and people are dying every day” Marta Jolesz, 37, said. “The average person is on the waiting list for five to 10 years. Most people don’t have that kind of time. My dad didn’t have that kind of time.”
The Brookline TAB profiled Jolesz and his efforts to find a donor via a website and Facebook last August.
“If the TAB wouldn’t have run the article, I wouldn’t have found out about it,” Johnston said.
“Basically, when I first read about it, I thought, ‘Oh, he’ll have no problem finding a donor,’” Johnston said. “Then, I thought if this person was my father or my father-in-law or someone I cared about, and he didn’t find a donor, I’d probably be angry.”
The idea got lodged in his mind and didn’t go away, and Johnston said he’s not sure why.
“I even waited a few days to tell (my wife),” said Johnston. “I thought it would go away, and it didn’t.”
Johnston’s wife, Heidi, is the pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church in Quincy. She had just started a new job and given birth to the couple’s son, Oliver, two months before. She was not enthusiastic about her husband undergoing a major elective surgery, so she spent about a week contemplating the decision, spiritually.
“Every week I stand up in the pulpit and ask people to step outside their comfort zone and care for people in need,” Heidi Johnston said. “I thought, ‘This is the opportunity that we’ve been given to do that,’ and I thought I should support Ben.”
Ben Johnston did some research and learned that most donors are back on their feet in a couple of months. Also, the hospital staff emphasized that he was free to change his mind at any stage of the testing, which took about two months.
Ben Johnston is composing a song about his organ-donation experience. This is the first verse of what is tentatively titled “Goodbye, Dear Kidney.”
After a third of a century, you up
and left me
Jumped right in to some other man
All my scars are still healing, and
I’ve got the feeling
I won’t be seeing you again
You left a hole deep within in me,
and I’m just beginning
To fill up the space the best that I can
And though sometimes I miss you,
the truth is I wish you
A long happy life with him
So goodbye, goodbye dear kidney
If I start to cry, if my tears don’t dry, forgive me
It’s hard to let you go, but in my heart I know
You’re better off without me
So goodbye, goodbye dear kidney
Heidi said she was with the Jolesz family while Ben and Frank were in the operating room, which was a great comfort. Ben’s surgery went very quickly.
“The kidney started perfusing (taking in blood) instantly,” said Heidi. “We were hugging and crying at Brigham and Women’s. That was incredible. That certainly bonds you. The daughters were in Ben’s hospital (room) rubbing his head and feet.
Jolesz wasn’t able to do a face-to-face interview because of the drugs he is taking to suppress his immune system, but he wrote in an email that he’s feeling much better.
“Ben gave me the gift of life, something that I almost lost,” Jolesz wrote. “Words are not enough to express my gratitude for Ben and Heidi’s selfless act of helping me. My hope is that what they did for me will motivate others to help those in need.”
Ben served two tours of duty in Iraq when he was an officer in the Army. His job was building bridges and other kinds of road construction. He said that he felt ambivalent about his work and the war in general, but donating a kidney was something he’d do again if he could.
It’s now just over two months after the operation and Ben said that except for the occasional pain at the incision, “I’m pretty much back to normal, and to me, that’s such a small amount of time to give someone a new lease on life. I would do it again.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Heidi made me a scrapbook for Christmas, and I get emotional looking at the pictures and reading what his daughters wrote.”
Everybody interviewed for this story said that they hope it encourages more people to donate kidneys.
“Everything aligned for Ben and he was able to give the gift of life to my father and help our family,” said Marta Jolesz. “This journey has been truly unbelievable, and we feel so fortunate to find not only a donor, but a donor like Ben and his family.”
This so called life ©
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Life, it takes all prisoners,
good or bad,
often it throws back the deserving to start all over again
There is no rhyme nor reason for life’s directions
We are all obstacles in the illusion called life
We decide upon the road to take
We control not all that will occur
Gifts and rewards are given for our sacrifices when deemed deserving
However, there is not always a reason for the tragedies of this so called life
We work hard to exist and do things right
But will forever remain powerless to control our own destiny
So buckle up and continue to do right
At some point in life good things will happen
So just hang on tight
Grin and bare it and just keep up the good fight
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This so called life
Was written by
Felina Silver Robinson
on January 1, 2014
Claire Davis dies from injuries in Arapahoe High School shooting
Claire Davis, the 17-year-old who was shot in the head during the Dec. 13 shooting at Arapahoe High School, died Saturday afternoon with her family at her side.
As the news of her death spread, the memorial at the school glowed from freshly lit candles, and more and more visitors gathered in subfreezing temperatures and light snow to say goodbye to Claire.
Allison Bruhn, a junior at Arapahoe, arrived Saturday evening just as she had the previous eight days. This time she carried a poster from the school’s dance team, expressing the members’ love for Claire. Tears welled up in her eyes as she lit candles and hugged friends.
“I’ve been coming every night and praying for an hour, praying that Claire would be OK, that she would get better,” she said. “Our school loves Claire. She was such a nice and giving person.”
Shannon Wilhelm, her husband and her 5-year-old son, Deagan, placed flowers at the foot of the fence as snow flurries covered its crush of poster boards, photographs and written messages left by the community.
The Wilhelms did not know Claire, but Shannon cried and held her son tightly in her arms.
“Being a parent, the fact that you have to lose your child around the holidays or any time, it’s just not something you want anyone to go through,” she said.
When Camille Nyls and her daughter Kendall, a sophomore at Arapahoe, learned that Claire had died, they purchased a bouquet of flowers and brought it to the memorial.
“She had such a pretty smile, and you know she had a big heart because she loved animals,” Nyls said. “The thing that bothers me the most is that we have kids killing kids for no reason.”
The hospital had announced the teenager’s death in a Facebook posting at 5:15 p.m.: “Despite the best efforts of our physicians and nursing staff, and Claire’s fighting spirit, her injuries were too severe and the most advanced medical treatments could not prevent this tragic loss of life. Claire’s death is immensely heartbreaking for our entire community, our staff and our families.
“The Davis family would like to thank everyone who have sent their best wishes and prayers, and are grateful for the kindness and support of the community. They know that you all are mourning with them, and again request privacy during this time of grief.”
The hospital said that information regarding a public celebration of Claire’s life would be announced later and said the public could continue to leave cards for the Davis family in the “Cards for Claire” box, located in the main entrance of the hospital.
About 6:30 p.m., the family also posted a statement.
“Although we have lost our precious daughter,” the family said, “we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years — we were truly blessed to be Claire’s parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.”
While asking for privacy, the family thanked the first-responders, school, sheriff’s office and others for their “extraordinary work” on Claire’s behalf.
Claire Davis was shot at point-blank range with a shotgun after a gunman stormed into the school’s north entrance in the noon hour of Dec. 13. She was sitting in the hallway and had no time to react before the 18-year-old Arapahoe student shot her and moved into the library, where he took his own life.
Authorities believe she was a random victim. Although she and the gunman were acquainted, they were not friends, officials said last week.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said investigators believe the gunman’s main target was a librarian who was also the debate coach.
Claire was taken to the hospital, where she remained in critical condition. On Dec. 15, her family announced that the girl was stable but in a coma.
Classmates and community members immediately rallied around the teenager, raising thousands of dollars for her care and asking the community and nation to keep her in their thoughts and prayers. They sold T-shirts and started funds to help pay for her medical expenses. The hashtag #PrayForClaire trended on Twitter and social media.
Neighbors called her the best babysitter in the community, and classmates and friends talked of her love for horses.
On Thursday, the band One Direction, one of Claire’s favorite musical groups, uploaded a get-well video to her on YouTube.
On Friday night, about 100 people gathered at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial, just a few blocks south of the school, to pray for Claire at a candlelight vigil.
Paul Norden, Jacqui Webb to be married
“Paul looked over at me and said ‘Mom, Jacqui isn’t going to want me with one leg,’” wrote his mother, Liz Norden, in remembering the moments after Paul woke up from a coma in the hospital.
Norden, 31, and his brother JP, 33, both of Stoneham, were at the finish line with friends waiting for another friend to finish the race when the first explosion went off. Both brothers lost a leg in the blast.
“I remember fighting back tears and feeling so awful for him and saying ‘Paul are you kidding me?’” Liz Norden said.
She was right. Thursday night, Liz Norden shared the happy news that Paul and Jacqui, who also suffered shrapnel wounds in the blast, were engaged.
The proposal came after three months of planning by both families.
“I will be so PROUD to see my son WALK down the aisle with the girl of his dreams,” she wrote.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. —Two Springfield sisters who were reported missing this weekend have been found, according to the family.
Madyson “Mady” Figueroa, 6, and her 14-year-old sister, Janessa Figueroa-Reim were reported missing Sunday. They were found Monday and are said to be OK.
The family said the girls were with the 14-year-old’s boyfriend.
Police officers, including a K-9 unit, searched the neighborhood Sunday into Monday as temperatures plunged below freezing. A group of volunteers resumed the search Monday.
James Costello met Krista D’Agostino at Spaulding
LYON, France —From heartbreak comes the heart-warming story of love in one man’s recovery from grievous injuries suffered in the Boston Marathon bombings.
“April 15 was one of the worst days of my life,” James Costello, of Malden, writes in a Facebook post. “I soon wondered why and for what reason this had happened.”
Eight months later, Costello would find the answer.
Costello, who was with friends near the Boston Marathon finish line, was captured in photos in the minutes after the bombings with his jeans shredded and blackened, his body so burned that he was left needing pig skin grafts on most of his right arm and right leg.
Three of Costello’s friends lost a leg, including brothers Paul Norden, 31, and J.P. Norden, 33. Other friends suffered serious burns and shrapnel injuries after the second bomb exploded outside Forum restaurant on Boylston Street.
But after about two weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he underwent multiple surgeries and was among patients who met President Barack Obama, Costello was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“A few days later I saw a nurse in passing, this would turn out to be Krista, who had shared a few mutual friends, but we had never crossed paths before,” Costello, known to his friends as “Bim,” wrote about nurse Krista D’Agostino.
“After sharing a handful of conversations I realized not only how beautiful she was but also what a kind heart she had. I somehow convinced her to attend a benefit with me, which turned into a few dates, which turned into a few inseparable months,” wrote Costello.
Costello and D’Agostino are spending part of December in Europe with other victims and first responders on an all-expenses-paid “Heroes Cruise.”
In the French city of Lyon, Costello popped the question.
“I’m happy to announce that we will spend the rest of our lives together. I now realized why I was involved in the tragedy. It was to meet my best friend, and the love of my life.”
A Facebook photo of D’Agostino showing her engagement ring in front of Lyon’s famed carousel is a remarkable contrast to the images of Costello staggering away from the devastation on Boylston Street.