Grand Rapids Hairstylist Gifts Kidney to Client
Ask anyone who knows Becky Richard if they’re surprised about her decision to become a living organ donor and you’ll get the same basic response. Not at all. Not even a little bit.
When the Eastown Salon hairstylist heard a client needed a kidney, she just knew she wanted to help. After discussing it with her husband to make sure he was on board, the mother of three dove into the testing process to see if she was a match.
“I just knew someone needed a kidney and they were going to die without it and I have two,” said Richard. “I just knew right away when I heard. Whether it was my friend or a relative or any human being, it really doesn’t matter to me.”
Turns out she and Jud Lynch, 62, could practically be siblings as far as transplant specialists at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Kidney Transplant Program were concerned. With compatible blood types and other factors that go into determining whether someone would be a good donor, her good health, combined with the fact that she’s done having children, make her an optimal match. The duo are scheduled to undergo their respective surgeries on Jan. 25.
For Lynch and his wife Lynn, as well as their two daughters Megan Kornoelje and Allison Lynch, Richard’s generosity will mean more healthy years with an adored husband and father. In their light-filled East Grand Rapids condominium, Jud and Lynn Lynch welcomed Becky, her husband John and daughter Allie,21, over on a recent afternoon. There were plenty of hugs exchanged and gifts for the Richard family, which also includes John, 7, and Eldin, 3.
Both Richard and Lynn wear matching silver necklaces with kidneys dangling from simple strands, gifts from Jud. It’s clear the Lynch family has grown to include this “kidney sister”.
“We definitely have a pretty special bond now,” Richard said.
A Chance at Normal
For Jud Lynch, the gift of a kidney will mean getting his life back.
He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, at 13 and the kidney disease IgA nephropathy in his 20s. He’s no stranger to hospitals or daily medications, but despite that, had lived a healthy, active lifestyle until relatively recently. An avid swimmer and tennis player, Lynch was getting by, but his kidney function dramatically decreased last summer, operating at only about eight percent.
Such a low functionality moved Lynch onto the kidney transplant list and it also meant he needed to start dialysis. The treatment cleans the blood of patients whose kidneys aren’t up to the task. In Lynch’s case, three days per week are devoted to dialysis at four hours a stretch. It makes travel next to impossible and really controls his life at this point.
“I’m looking forward to feeling normal again,” he said.
‘On a Mission’
Although many friends and family members were tested to see if they’d be a good match for Lynch, Richard pushed the process forward. She kept the Lynch family informed at every step and even followed up with transplant team staff to make sure they’d received her paperwork.
“Normally, I’m so laid back, but I was on a mission,” Richard said. “It was on my heart and my mind.”
It’s an understatement to say that the Lynch family is overwhelmed by her generosity. Jud Lynch has needed operations in the past, but this time, he’s not just hoping for a speedy recovery for himself.
“It truly is an altruistic sort of thing because it’s not a piece of cake,” he said.
“You don’t meet that many people in this world that are as generous as she is,” Lynn Lynch said. “That’s who Becky is.”
Because their daughters also both have Crohn’s disease, they weren’t considered as donors, a fact that frustrated the family. Kornoelje has no words for the sacrifice Richard is making for her dad.
“The older I get, the more I don’t believe in coincidences,” she said. “I think we were really lucky.”
“If it were my dad, I’d be going out of my mind,” Richard said.
Because of his lifelong chronic conditions, Jud Lynch and his family have volunteered their time and financial gifts to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the Saint Mary’s Foundation, of which he previously served as chair. They know better than most families that without good health, nothing else really matters.
“We’ve tried to do these things not because we want to get anything back, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Lynch said.
Richard herself has experienced Jud Lynch’s generosity firsthand. She remembers a particularly rough Christmas season when she was struggling financially. As a young, single mom, Richard had resigned herself to the reality that she would be unable to afford Christmas gifts for her daughter that year. Although she didn’t reveal this information to anyone, Lynch gave the hairstylist a generous tip, not knowing how much it would mean.
“You gave us Christmas that year,” she said.
Both Lynch and Richard were willing to share their story with the hope that someone reading might consider organ donation. Even though some of Lynch’s potential donors weren’t a good match for him, many are still following through with additional testing to see if they can help someone else. While researching donation, Richard discovered that 12 people die waiting for a kidney every day.
“That’s really sad to me,” she said.
Lynch ponders what Richard is doing for him and likes to think he’d do the same for someone else if he were able.
“I hope I’d be strong enough to do that,” he said.
With her characteristic sense of humor, Richard downplays the gift.
“I have two small children,” Richard said. “Three days in the hospital with a morphine pump sounds like a week at the spa.”
Learn more about the kidney donation process at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s here.
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Photo credit: Julie Bitely