A local woman is going to give her kidney to someone she hardly knows, and is giving it selflessly.
“I never thought twice or wondered why I should do this,” Tonya Miller said at the home of Stan Summers, the man she plans on donating her kidney to. She said before she even knew she was going to donate, God had spoken to her and told her she was a match and that she could withstand this challenge.
God must have known that Miller is what is known as a “universal donor.” This includes more than her universally accepted type O-negative blood.
Summers’ daughter, Genyne Marks, a registered nurse, explained that transplants are difficult enough, but for Native Americans, such as herself and her father, finding a match is even more difficult. She explained that Native Americans have unique cellular structures and finding a match from another Native American is difficult, and finding a match with a non-Native is miraculous.
A fundraising event and dinner will be held from 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, July 9 at Summers’ House of Mercy Church at 393 S. Pa Ha Ln., Bishop. The benefit dinner proceeds will go toward costs associated with the operation scheduled to take place July 22 at the Kidney Transplant Center in San Francisco.
Summers and Miller are not entirely strangers; Miller and Marks attend the same church and are in fellowship with Summers’ House of Mercy church.
Summers said his kidney problems stem from a fever he had as a child that scarred the organs. He said he hadn’t had any problems up until three years ago. In 2009 he underwent a peritoneal operation and it was determined then that he should undergo dialysis while searching for a transplant match and donor. The normal wait time for a kidney donation is 5-7 years
Not long after the operation, he contracted peritonitis, an inflammation of the inner stomach lining, and spent six weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno.
In 2010 he suffered another infection to his intestine, diverticulitis, and had more than 20 inches of his small intestine removed.
During the times he dealt with an infection, a possible match was discovered from a deceased Lone Pine woman. However, with his infections, doctors did not want to risk possible complications with an operation and organ rejection.
Summers is doing well now and is anxious for the operation. The July 22 operation should consist of just a few small holes in a laparoscopic operation. This will mean less recovery time.
Summers said he is also anxious for Miller. The transplant is toughest on the donor, Marks said. The donor has to get used to being perfectly healthy and then losing a kidney. In the donor, a kidney can grow up to a dangerous 35 percent larger than normal to compensate for the loss of the other organ.
Summers added that he was reluctant to accept his daughter’s offer of her matched kidney. However, Marks said she found out her kidneys were actually a not uncommon horseshoe shaped single-organ and hence not available for donation.
“I was devastated,” Marks said. “It was my heart’s desire to do this for my dad.”
Luckily, Miller stepped up to the plate, or soon-to-be operating table, without batting an eye.
Miller has not been without some doubt about her decision, including concerns from her husband, Murray Miller.
“It was a very personal decision,” Miller said.
“It’s such an awesome thing to be able to do – it’s been overwhelming for me and my family,” Miller said. She added, “but it was not up for debate. This is no one else’s body.
“And I’m not going to live my life with ‘what-ifs.’”Summers had some “what-if” moments himself, the toughest being the request of Miller.
“It’s a pretty hard question to ask,’’ Summers said, adding it’s even harder to adequately say thank you to Miller for what she’s about to do.
Summers is a well known pastor and nationally recognized musician who won a Native American Music Award in 2004. He is a pastor and has officiated weddings and funerals throughout the America. His music has taken a back seat to his health in the past few years, but he says he hopes to get singing again soon.
The fundraiser dinner for Summers will be from 5-9 p.m. Saturday, July 9 at the House of Mercy Church at 393 S. Pa Ha Ln. To get to the church, take West Line Street to Pa Ha, take a left on Pa Ha, drive down Pa Ha to 393, look for the sign on the right and take a right on the dirt road. The $15 dinner includes tri-tip, baked beans, potato salad, garlic bread and dessert.
For more information or for tickets, call (760) 872-3942.