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Her perfect Christmas gift: sales rep’s kidney donation

GREENVILLE, N.C. (BP)–Wallie Hargrove’s most cherished gift will come a little after Christmas: a kidney from a Broadman & Holman sales representative who made the offer the first time he met her.

“Isn’t he wonderful?” Hargrove said of Larry Herbert, a man she and her husband, Steve, call “our little angel.”

Herbert, of Sherrills Ford, N.C., has worked for Broadman & Holman, the trade book division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, for six years, serving in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Herbert met Hargrove the first time last August when she took the job of buying books for the four stores in Free Will Baptist Press’ account in Ayden, N.C., where Hargrove has worked for several years.

“My arm was black and blue when we first met, and he wanted to know who I had been in a fight with,” said Hargrove, who has had kidney disease since the early 1980s. “I explained to him I was on kidney dialysis.”

In fact, Hargrove undergoes eight hours of dialysis three nights a week at the Greenville, N.C., Dialysis Center. Before she began going to the clinic last May, she had been completing home dialysis seven times a week, 10 hours each night.

“I go to the clinic Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Hargrove, who lamented having to miss Sunday evening services at Christian Chapel Free Will Baptist in Pink Hill, N.C., where her husband is pastor. “I’m a busy person. I work 40 hours a week, and I teach children’s church and junior choir. And I do dialysis 24 hours a week.”

But thanks to Herbert, Hargrove should gain back a few hours of her week after Jan. 14, when kidney transplant surgery is scheduled at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville. Before Herbert agreed to give up one of his kidneys, Hargrove was on a transplant waiting list with about 70,000 others.

“I don’t normally walk around saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a kidney, anybody want one?'” Herbert said of his first encounter with Hargrove. “I wasn’t out looking for it, it just happened. I really think God put us together that day.”

But, in fact, Hargrove claims the first time she met Herbert he did offer to give her his kidney. “The very first day I met him is when he offered,” Hargrove said. “We were sitting around talking and after 15 or 20 minutes he said, ‘I’ve got two kidneys, I’ll give you one.’

“I had my doubts he meant it,” she added. “Here’s this guy I’ve never met before offering to give me a kidney.”

Hargrove said Herbert, a regular blood and plasma donor, gave her his blood type card with his telephone number so she could contact the local transplant group, The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University School in Greenville.

“I was in a state of shock. If I hadn’t have been, I would have remembered I couldn’t do anything about it myself anyway.” The donor, in fact, must contact the transplant group and offer to give up an organ, she said. “He has to call them so they can make sure he is doing it willingly, and I’m not pressuring him or offering to pay him,” Hargrove said. “And he did it.”

Herbert not only called the transplant group, he began immediately going through a battery of tests; his latest was an all-day event Nov. 6 at Pitt Memorial where he was “given every test known to man” and the go-ahead by doctors to give one of his kidneys to Hargrove.

“Even though my wife, Cathy, is a nurse and teaches nursing, that was the first time I had a full physical since 1969 when I got out of the Air Force,” he said, noting he works under the premise, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Herbert, 58, said he asked the doctor if his aging kidney would be any good. “The doctor told me the average healthy kidney has a longevity of 140 years.”

Receiving a kidney from a live donor is far superior than getting one from a cadaver donor because fewer people need temporary dialysis afterward, Herbert explained.

In fact, after three of Hargrove’s family members failed the donor test, she was offered a cadaver kidney, Herbert said, “but she didn’t test well for it, so the transplant didn’t happen.”

Though the organ recipient’s insurance company pays for the entire procedure, from start to finish, including the testing, Herbert said he appreciated LifeWay’s willingness to give him six weeks off for the surgery.

“Larry is an exceptional person and a faithful Christian,” said Ken Stephens, vice president of Broadman & Holman. “LifeWay is happy to do its part in helping Larry make this generous offer.”

Herbert, who said he was glad to find out he was in good enough health to give up a kidney, prays the operation works out for both of them, especially Hargrove.

“She’s really had some tough times, so at least I’m going to give it a shot,” he said. “I’m a Christian, and it just seems like the thing to do.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GRATEFUL RECIPIENT and EXTRAODINARY GIVERS.

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  • Terri Lackey