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A perfect match

Husband to donate kidney to wife on their fifth wedding anniversary

A perfect match

A perfect match

Justin and Alaina Peay pose for pictu...

Some men forget them altogether; others give elaborate gifts of diamond jewelry, a dozen red roses, or dinner at a nice restaurant.
    But one young man will give the greatest gift of all to his wife on their fifth wedding anniversary: life.
    Justin Peay, the video coordinator at Connection Church, will donate one of his kidneys to his wife, Alaina, on Oct. 11.
    Alaina, 26, has abnormally small kidneys and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis Disease (FSGS) and was diagnosed about a year-and-a-half ago with the condition.
    Justin, who can say and spell the diagnosis with ease, explains: “The kidneys have glomeruli that serve as filters. When scar tissue forms over the glomeruli, it prevents the kidney from doing its job.”
    At the end of last summer, Alaina’s kidney functions were dropping rapidly enough that her doctor began looking at the possibility of getting her on a transplant list. No one ever dreamed that Justin would turn out to be a match for donation.
    “I always knew I wanted to get tested to see if I was a match,” Justin said. “But we’d read that the chances of a spouse being a match were next to impossible.”
    Early in the summer of this year, Justin began the evaluations for donating, and Alaina began the evaluations for receiving. Extensive testing in Atlanta followed for both, including blood work, EKG, MRI, mental health evaluations and counseling.
    In addition to the physical aspects of the procedure, the Peays received information on the emotional toll possible.
    “My social worker said that some people can experience depression after they’ve given an organ,” Justin said. “It’s the body’s natural response to mourn the loss of a perfectly good organ. The body can’t see the big picture – doesn’t realize why we’re doing that. It’s the body’s selfish nature.”
    Without even a hint of selfishness, Justin anxiously awaited the results of the tests. In late July, the Peays found out that Justin was indeed a match for his wife.
    When Justin got the call to schedule the surgery, he asked, “What’s the earliest date?” In looking at calendar dates with the nurse, he realized the approximate time of availability fell near his anniversary.
     “Do you do surgeries on a Friday?” he asked.
    When the nurse responded positively, Justin said: “October the 11th. That’s our anniversary. Let’s do it then.”
    On the way home from work, Justin called Alaina to say he was picking up dinner and stopped by the grocery store. At home, he told Alaina to wait by the door. He had a surprise for her.
    Working methodically, Justin spelled out “October 11” on the sidewalk in front of their house, and then led her there.
    When he told Alaina to open her eyes, he asked, “Do you know what that date is?”
    “Our anniversary?” Alaina responded.
    “It’s also our kidney transplant day,” Justin answered.
    Alaina promptly burst into tears.
    Oh – and, yes, he used kidney beans to spell out the date of the transplant.
    Paraphrasing from Scripture, Alaina recently told Justin: “You are beautifully and wonderfully made.”
“Your heart is in love with God and that makes me happy,” she added. “We are a perfect match … literally. You amaze me each day. Thanks for taking care of me and loving me. You are my love forever.”
    A “match made in heaven,” they both like to say, because husband and wife feel strongly that God brought them together for this very reason.
    “God has definitely been the center of our story,” Justin said.
Countless instances, he says, show how God has provided for them. For example, a thorough examination following a car wreck only one week after gall bladder surgery enabled Dr. James Jackson, a nephrologist, to discover her condition.
    And the Peays feel blessed to have financial and loving support from family, friends, and fellow church members and say that they couldn’t make it without their help.
    Struggling with the high cost of her medical bills, the Peays have placed their house on the market to sell and plan to move into her grandparents’ pond house after the surgery. Her anti-rejection medication alone will cost about $1,000 monthly, indefinitely.
    Justin’s family members, former Statesboro residents, assisted with car payments and assumed his school loans, and her parents, Tommie and Melanie Lewis, help with medical and other expenses.
    A fund, the “Alaina Peay Transplant Fund,” has been established at Sea Island Bank, and one of the branches hosted a cookout to support the couple. Unfortunately, Alaina was too ill to attend, having just been released from the hospital.
    Alaina and Justin are active members of Connection Church, and each has a “small group” that meets weekly. The two groups recently came together for a “Justin and Alaina Day,” praying over the couple and surprising them with a 7-foot cardboard check made out for $2,500.
    And during a recent emergency trip to the hospital, Justin’s small group, who happened to be meeting when Justin got word that Alaina had been rushed to the hospital, joined them at the ER, offering love, support, and prayers. Then they made the announcement that they were buying Justin a new phone, as his had failed when Alaina tried to reach him that night.
    It was on that night that Justin – with the weight of responsibility off his shoulders briefly and on those of a dozen or so friends and spiritual brothers in their mid-20s – broke down and cried with, and next to, his wife.
    When asked why he is so passionate about donating a kidney to his bride of five years, Justin answers without hesitation: “For so many years, all I had were my words to comfort Alaina when she was feeling ill. I’m not a doctor. I can’t prescribe medicine. But when I heard that I had an opportunity to physically help her feel better, I didn’t think twice.
    “Christ gave up his life for his Bride, the Church,” he continued. “As husbands, we’re told to love our wives just as Jesus loved the Church. I’m not exactly giving up my life; I’m giving a kidney. And I thank God for giving me this opportunity.”

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