Little girls grow up dreaming about finding that perfect one for them. The perfect boy, the dream wedding, the house, the kids, the family vacations. They think about all of those often while growing up. We never know when he will come along, but we just know he will. For Jennifer, it was at just sixteen years old that she met the one for her. Chuck was just a little older, so they started out as friends. The beginning was filled with many nights on the phone or just setting in Jennifer’s driveway for hours enjoying the long talks. They quickly became best friends and there was no question, they were both right where they were meant to be.
At the time that their love story began, Chuck was on dialysis due to being born with kidney issues. He just had 2 kidney transplants just prior to meeting Jennifer. One of the kidney’s came from his mother. Due to what is believed to be surgical error, both kidneys did not last. In June of 1993, Chuck got a call for another transplant. This time it was from an elderly cadaver donor. Jennifer recalls this moment in their life very well. “I remember him calling crying from fear. He didn’t want to go but went anyway,” she said.
That kidney lasted Chuck for 24 yrs to the month. “I remember going to UAB to visit him while he was in the hospital. I didn’t realize that the next time we would be here, I was going to be the next donor,” said Jennifer. By being an organ donor, a gentleman they had never met, gave this precious couple 24 years together. In those 24 years, they did so many things together. Both Chuck and Jennifer graduated from nursing school. They got married and had 2 beautiful daughters, who are now 19 and 15. “We were blessed with time to do all these amazing thing by someone’s selfless decision to donate their organs,” said Jennifer. If I wasn’t already an organ donor, I’m telling you, I would have been after those words.
In March 2017, illness began to set in. Both Jennifer and Chuck knew that the kidney that gave them so much joy was on its last leg. It was old and worn out. Still, they felt blessed. By June 2017, the kidney function had ceased and they had to make the decision about dialysis. They chose to do home hemo dialysis. Both Jennifer and Chuck were trained for a month before they brought everything needed into their home. “During that time, I had to do some soul searching, ” Jennifer said, ” I knew chuck needed me and didn’t need my fears and worries about the situation. We worried a lot about how this would impact our family and how this would affect us financially. I could see him in pain and distress often. I knew that I could not burden him with my feelings so I just began to pray a lot. I begged for peace and comfort a lot.”
They then began trying to get Chuck on the transplant list at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and also at UAB where all of Chuck’s previous transplant surgeries were at. It was a long process just to have all of the testing done. The doctors spoke to Chuck and Jennifer about his options and strongly suggested a living donor. Jennifer said, “I was more than willing to be tested. I prayed hard to God that I could be a vessel to his recovery.” At Thanksgiving 2018, Chuck and Jennifer found out that Jennifer WAS a suitable donor. At Christmas Jennifer received the letter stating that she was approved to donate her left kidney and that her testing was complete. Jennifer said, “I felt like everything that I had prayed for had come true. It was a miracle that I was chosen for this. I was adopted as a child and when I thought about it, God’s plan started there. My birth mom realized she couldn’t raise me and decided to give me up. She gave me life so I could share mine with my soul mate. It just seems like destiny. Over these past couple of years chuck and I have only grown closer and I’ve learned to pray things out. I know that this journey has been God driven and this is the purpose to my life. I realize how fragile life is and how precious time is. We haven’t been able to go on vacations or leave town much. But we have had time to spend together talking and reconnecting on a different level. We got our first daughter off to college and still have our other daughter at home. Watching our girls grow and change gave us things to look forward to. We have anxiously waited for this day to come. We know that God is in full control and that we have an amazing team of doctors and nurses to care for us. Nothing will be any sweeter than to see a catheter bag full of urine!!! I can’t wait. It is with as much anticipation as giving birth to our girls. Monday March 11, 2019 will be a day we will never forget and we hope that this kidney will just flourish in his body and last us the rest of our life. Such an amazing opportunity and gift of a lifetime. “
The day began long before the sun came up. It was filled with both tears and laughter, some moments even had at the same time. I was able to listen to so much of their inspiring story from the very beginning until where they are now. It was a very special day filled with more love than anyone could ever imagine. It was the kind of day that sent me straight home so I could hug my husband and my kids just a little tighter.
Chuck and Jennifer are both doing very well. I am extremely excited to meet up with both of them next week to catch up and capture some after surgery images for them to follow up on this amazing story of love. Thank you, Chuck and Jennifer for inviting me into your lives, allowing me to get to know you and to capture this very special day for your family. I believe just as you were meant to cross paths all those years ago, I was meant to be your photographer for this beautiful day. I had no idea one simple email could open my eyes and my heart so much as the one I received from Jennifer asking if I was available on that specific day.