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‘You only need one’: Husband doing well after wife donates kidney

On a white paper napkin, he scribbled a poem.

Glenn Smith and Lana Bond had just met at JJ’s Hideaway in Fort Worth, and the words he wrote that night stunned her. Somehow, the poem captured precisely who she was and where she was in life.

“Who are you?” Lana recalled asking him.

“I thought maybe he was an angel,” she said. “I didn’t think he could be real.”

On the underside of the table, they wrote their names in black ink.

Glenn asked her if she danced, and she said, “I do.”

The two strangers danced together all night, and by the end of the evening, Glenn proposed marriage. Lana thought he must be crazy.

Six months later, they eloped to a small church perched atop a Tennessee mountain.

That was 29 years ago.

‘Time was not on our side’

The leg cramps started sporadically, then worsened.

Doctor after doctor could not figure out what was wrong, so when a friend suggested he visit a physician at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, he agreed.

He was standing on the edge of the cliff with his toes hanging over when we discovered hos serious it was.

Lana Smith

On a Monday morning in February 2014, he and Lana drove two hours south to Temple to visit a doctor and have blood drawn.

On the drive home that same day, the doctor called. Glenn’s kidneys might be failing fast.

The next week, he returned to the hospital for more tests, which revealed his kidneys were barely functioning.

“He was standing on the edge of the cliff with his toes hanging over when we discovered how serious it was,” Lana said. “Time was not on our side.”

Her husband needed a transplant or would require dialysis.

“Glenn would not have been a good candidate for dialysis,” Lana said. “I mean, we were still dancing.”

Because of his rare blood type, B-positive, finding a match for a kidney would be difficult, and he probably faced a long, uncertain wait on the donor registry.

While meeting with the doctor in mid-July, Lana suggested that she be tested as a potential match. Glenn said absolutely not. Lana told him she could do as she pleased with her kidney.

“When someone you love faces death,” she said, “you face it with them.”

Even then, the doctor told them there was a one-in-a-million chance she would be a match.

“Well,” Glenn replied, “those are pretty good odds.”

On a Monday in July, Lana underwent a battery of blood tests and physicals. Three days later, they got the news. She was the perfect match.

Successful operations

More than 100,000 people await kidney transplants in the United States, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The median wait time is 3.6 years.

In 2014, the same year of Glenn’s transplant, 4,761 people died waiting for a kidney. Another 3,668 people became too sick to even receive a transplant.

Surgery was scheduled for Sept. 10, 2014, a Wednesday, at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.

At one appointment, the doctor grabbed a pen and the paper padding that covered the exam table to sketch their kidneys, complete with blood vessels and arrows to show them how the surgeries would work.

You open your mind to the possibilities that exist when you are given a death sentence.

Glenn Smith

They prayed together. Their friends prayed. Longtime customers at their company, Metroplex Flooring, in Arlington and Fort Worth prayed.

People warned Lana that surgery and recovery were harder for the donor than recipient, and she and Glenn prepared to remain in Tyler for at least two months. Their son, Jerry, moved from Arizona to help.

The transplant went flawlessly.

Seven days later, Lana left the hospital for a pedicure. Ten days later, the couple went out for lunch. And 2  1/2 weeks after the surgeries, they returned home.

‘You only need one’

Two years have passed since Lana gave her husband a kidney.

They spend most days together, rebuilding their business. They are consolidating the Fort Worth and Arlington locations to a new storefront in Arlington.

Glenn cannot say he regrets what happened.

“Things happen that change the course of your life,” he said. “You open your mind to the possibilities that exist when you are given a death sentence.”

Lana often tells people their story, in hopes that others will donate their own kidneys, maybe even to a stranger. Imagine the lives we could save, she says.

17,107 kidney transplants performed in the U.S. in 2014. Of those, 5,537 came from living donors and 700 were spouses or life partners.

“You’re born with two,” she said, “and you only need one.”

Glenn and Lana still go dancing, and they still hold hands when they sit next to each other. He still writes poems for her, and she has a box full of cocktail napkins that double as love letters.

On a recent afternoon, they walked side by side to the back room of their Arlington store and pointed to an old bar table and stools.

It is the same table they shared 29 years ago at JJ’s Hideaway and later purchased from the owner.

Their names are still scribbled beneath the table. Glenn and Lana.

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