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‘God’s hand’ visible in lead-up to kidney donation

THOMASVILLE, Ala. (BP) — Michael Odom didn’t tell anyone he was doing it — not at first anyway.

Not until he’d made the first phone call to UAB Hospital to ask if he could be a kidney donor. And not until he’d gone through several more interviews. He wanted to be certain before he started offering people hope.

But it was hard not to be certain. He knew a miracle had been set in motion 40 years ago — and the miracles just kept coming.

‘Opportunity to donate’

“My mom had a kidney removed in 1969, and the second kidney eventually failed and she went on dialysis,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me donate then because I was too young, but I made up my mind 40 years ago that if I ever got the opportunity to donate mine, I would, because I had watched what she went through.”

Odom carried that commitment with him until spring of 2018 when he decided to try a new church — Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ala.

“I was going to a local Church of God at the time, but I always drove by Mount Vernon Baptist on my way home and thought about going in there and checking it out,” he said.

A country church is what he was used to and a country church is what he found — around eight people on a Sunday morning, maybe three on a good Wednesday.

“I was welcomed right away. It was a small group of people there,” Odom said. “They were arms wide open and made me feel really comfortable.”

Around the same time, Morris Hill — Mount Vernon’s pastor at the time — learned about a woman in the community who was in kidney failure. Hill called and asked if he and his wife could come over and visit her and her husband.

That woman was Latisa Sheehan.

“We had a really good talk,” Sheehan said. “They invited us to come to Mount Vernon Baptist Church, and we did. Everybody knows everybody there and we ended up swapping stories with Michael.”

And as they did, Odom felt the pang in his heart of that commitment he’d made all those years ago.

“I had made that promise to myself and I hadn’t really discussed it with anybody,” he said.

He decided to call for more information, but since he doesn’t get very good phone service at home, he drove down the road and parked at the local tractor supply store.

‘Give me a sign’

“I stopped and prayed about it and said, ‘God if this is the path that you want from me, give me a sign,'” Odom said. “Right then a little spotted fawn ran across the parking lot in front of me between my truck and the door.”

He made the call and his first visit to UAB Hospital was a few weeks later. He found out he would need to lose weight, so he went home and tore his kitchen apart, throwing away food and putting together a diet plan.

“I got together with Brother Morris to get some advice on how to lose weight,” Odom said.

Then one day he received a package in the mail from his brother — a box his mother’s sister had decided to send them out of the blue. It was filled with pictures, keepsakes and a letter from UAB Hospital dated 40 years earlier to the day. It was explaining that she had gone back into the hospital with complications of the transplant.

‘All God’

That was confirmation on top of confirmation for Odom.

“I still get emotional,” he said. “God’s hand has been in this from day one.”

Odom discovered another miracle that day — he and Sheehan were a perfect blood and tissue match, something that rarely happens even with relatives.

Sheehan said it was God “showing out.”

“There’s only eight people in our church,” she said. “Only God could’ve put the two of us in that one church and we be a perfect match. This is just all God.”

And for Sheehan it was new hope in a dark season.

“I was diagnosed in 2011 and gradually the function of both kidneys just gradually decreased,” she said. “Both of them literally shrunk and died and the biopsy shows no reason why.”

She said she’s speechless at times about how all this came together.

“You don’t have to be a church of a thousand people for God to hear your prayers and respond,” she said.

And you don’t have to be a big church for God to use your story, Sheehan said. She and Odom have both been doing well since their surgery in May, and there’s another result they’re grateful for too — they’ve become the best of friends.

“Michael, my husband Stan and I — the three of us just hit it off immediately,” Sheehan said. “He’s kind of a brother. He calls me sis.”

The three love motorcycles. They’ve started a motorcycle ministry and have been touring around churches in the area sharing the story of their miracle and God’s intensely personal love.

“I made that decision years ago and it was God’s timing to make it happen now,” Odom said. “I’m a living testimony.”

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  • Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist