Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
What can I say about my brother Geoff, affectionately known as Geoffey, Sefford (mom’s nick name for him) and “Boy.” When he was little, and mom was irritated with him she would holler, “Boy, get over here!” Well my younger sister Erica, who was just a toddler at the time, thought that was his name, and so she referred to him as “Boy,” and the ongoing family joke ever since has been, that he answered to it! Geoff is a typical younger brother, as children he bugged the hell out of his three sisters and to be honest still does from time to time. But Geoff has an amazing sense of humor and can have you in stitches telling you stories of his youth, and experiences growing up in the Suiter’s Clan. He is the life of any party always drawing a crowd wherever he goes and can be generous to a fault. It’s a family trait, as growing up, we did not bring home stray animals as most kids did, we brought home stray kids; friends whose parents had kicked them out of the house, were brought into the “Suiter’s Clan,” and made honorary members of the clan.
How many times have you read the above passage in the Bible and thought to yourself, “Who would do such a thing?” Who would lay down their life for a friend? Yes, we know that our Military Services men and women do this every day on the front lines; they lay down their lives for their compatriots and to keep us safe in our beds, and for that we are forever grateful. But how many of us would honestly sacrifice our lives for a friend in need? How many of us would be willing to go under the knife and literally give a piece of ourselves to a friend?
Well, this is precisely what my younger brother did for his friend, Dr. Greg Sarka. On Tuesday September 3rd, my brother William Geoffrey Suiters (sometimes referred to as “W,” by his good friends) underwent surgery to donate his left kidney to his long-time friend Greg, who has been battling Kidney disease for years.
A bit of background information on the “Geoff and Greg story,” behind the kidney donation, provided graciously by my sister-in-law Jennifer Suiters:
In 1998, Greg, Sue and RJ Sarka (their son who was a toddler at the time) moved from California to Pittsburgh so Greg could pursue his MD in Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. Greg, Sue and RJ settled on a nice colonel house next to Geoff and Jen’s in the friendly East Pittsburgh suburb of Blackridge. It was not long before Geoff and Greg became good friends.
Their friendship began as fierce lawn competitors, each trying to outdo the other with a better yard, the typical new neighbor fun! Geoff and Greg frequently compared notes on the tools of their trades, the dental drill vs. the carpentry drill, noting they were not that different, dentist and carpenter, and they became good friends.
The Sarka’s second child, Madison, was born a few years later and as the years went by Geoff and Jen continued to enjoy the entire Sarka family, spending many evenings at the Sarka’s back deck enjoying barbecuing, family holidays and life as 30 and 40 something’s.
All during his life, unfortunately Greg has been carrying a genetic disorder which eventually has caused kidney failure and he has been on dialysis, a process which requires a complete filtration of your entire blood supply several times a week. Due to the genetic disorder, siblings and other relatives were ruled out, but Geoff had the gift of life; O positive blood, and an excellent health record.
Eight years earlier, before Greg and his family moved to Portland Main, Geoff and Jen found out about the debilitating disease Greg was enduring, Geoff made a promise at time that he would donate his kidney to Greg.
When my brother telephoned to tell me his news, I was speechless; I mean really what do you say to that? “Oh well done, or Congratulations?” I mean it’s not like he called to tell me he got a new job, or that he won the lotto! No my brother was calling to inform me that he would be undergoing major surgery for 8 hours to donate his left kidney to a friend; a surgery which is considerably more challenging and life threatening to the donor than to the recipient. These are they kind of stories you read about in books or in the paper, but you never expect that you will be so close to something so wonderful, so moving and so selfless. Transplant surgery is a miracle; it saves someone else’s life, that is astonishingly wonderful and remarkable and that is what my little brother has done! He has selflessly given of himself to save the life of a friend.
I told my brother how very proud I am of him for what he is doing and what a blessing he is for Greg and his family, to make such a selfless gesture, what a hero, he was to me.
However, my brother does not see it that way. He sees his friend Greg as the real hero; a man who has accomplished so much, all while battling such a devastating disease. Never complaining, never giving up or giving in. Never immersed in self-pity or defeatism, Greg soldiered on reaching for and accomplishing his dreams. To my brother, his friend is the champion in this story he is merely helping out a good friend. He told me he “could not live with himself knowing he had the ability to help and did nothing,” so Geoff, in his quiet stoic way, underwent all the necessary tests to see if he was a good candidate. Because with Kidney donations, it is not as much about being a perfect genetic match as it is about being in good physical health. Had Geoff passed even one kidney stone; that would have been a deal breaker, and prevented my brother from being a viable donor. God works in mysterious ways, and has divine plans for us all. He brought these two men together 15 years ago, and on Tuesday, my brother gave the gift of life to his friend Greg.
To me, my brother is a Hero, a man of honor and dignity; with a heart of gold, a man I admire and look up to with pride and love. I love ya Geoffy!
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (Deuteronomy 15:10)
Editor’s NOTE: Both Geoff and Greg came though the surgery fine, and the kidney my brother donated, is already functioning in Greg! Praise God!
By: A.K. Robson