By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
ADAMSVILLE — March is “National Kidney Month” and will feature many awareness campaigns and benefits across the nation to promote and encourage kidney donors.
For Chad Ball, every day is a promotion for the cause. And a celebration of it.
Ball, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Adamsville, underwent a kidney transplant last August. Six months later, he is feeling on top of the world.
“It’s just amazing how the Lord has brought healing through this,” said Ball, “and has brought a renewed energy and passion to my ministry.”
Ball was diagnosed with FSGS, a leading cause of kidney failure, in 2006, and was also dealing with high blood pressure. He was able to continue with his ministry for many years after the diagnosis, including serving with his wife Christy for four years as missionaries in northern Africa and the Middle East with the International Mission Board.
But his health has been gradually declining in recent years. He was told by doctors early in 2019 that he needed a kidney transplant.
Word soon spread about Ball’s situation, although he wasn’t sure when — or even if — a match would be found. Turns out, he didn’t have to wait long.
Lisa Connerley, a first cousin of Ball’s wife, was made aware of the situation through Facebook. Connerley, who lives in the Atlanta area, soon began the process of being tested. It was determined that she was a match, and the procedure was done a few months later.
The following days and weeks were difficult — for both Ball and Lisa.
“One of things that I did not realize was just how intense the entire process would be,” said Ball. “It was a tough recovery. I wasn’t really prepared for the pain. But I definitely had some, although not as much as Lisa. The donor has a lot more pain (than the recipient).”
Now, though, roughly six months later, both giver and receiver are doing great.
Lisa, a running enthusiast, is running again on a daily basis. And Ball? He feels like a million bucks.
“I’m 43 years old, will turn 44 in July, and I feel like I am in my mid-30s again,” he said.
While giving God the glory for his new lease on life, Ball is using his platform to spread the word about the importance of being a donor. He is especially focused on telling his story as a means of helping promote National Kidney Month.
“I certainly feel that we, as believers, should — at the very least — register to be donors when we die,” he said. “It can really improve somebody’s quality of life, and may extend their life. And if that person is lost, that extension of life allows them to have more opportunity to hear the gospel. And if they are a believer, (the new organ) will give them more time to do the ministry that they’ve been called to do.
“It’s a no-brainer for me that we all need to be organ donors,” he said. “I’m signed up.”
Many Christ-followers, nationwide, agree that organ donation is a way of demonstrating Christ’s love.
“As soon as I heard that my friend was in need of a kidney, I immediately felt God calling me to respond,” said Carol Stanford, the daughter of a retired Tennessee pastor.
Stanford began praying about the situation and was hopeful that she would be able to donate one of her kidneys to her friend. After undergoing tests last month, Stanford was found to be a match. The procedure is scheduled for April.
“I have complete peace about it,” said Stanford, who grew up in Nashville and was a member of Dalewood Baptist Church and later at First Baptist Church, Columbia.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s my first surgery, and it’s an adventure. It brings me joy. Hopefully, it will be a happy, joyful event for my friend, too.”
Stanford, who now lives in Decatur, Ala., is not uneasy about the upcoming procedure. Just the opposite, in fact.
“I look at it using God’s math: I have two healthy kidneys. I only need one,” she said. “My friend has two unhealthy kidneys. She needs one healthy one. Therefore, one of my good kidneys can go to her.”
Ball noted that his relationship with the Lord has been strengthened through this experience — and not just the healing, but during the down days, too.
“It was amazing to watch God work through this and to experience the fellowship of suffering,” he said. “The Lord was with me, even in the physical suffering.”
Following the procedure, Ball was on anti-virals for three months, and was then on antibiotics for the next six months. He recently completed his final round of antibiotics, but he will take “anti-rejection” medicines for the rest of his life — a minor inconvenience compared to the hardships he was facing prior to the procedure.
“It got to the point where the only time I felt good was when I stepped into the pulpit to preach on Sunday mornings,” he said. “And as soon as the closing prayer was prayed, I started feeling bad again. It was like a light switch that the Holy Spirit would flip on when I got into the pulpit and then flip off when I came down. The rest of the week, I felt awful. But now, I feel good all the time.”
Ball’s story featured an interesting, and unexpected, twist.
When Connerley (Ball’s donor) was going through the process, they found a small kidney stone in her left kidney, the one that she donated to Ball.
“When I mentioned to my nephrologist at Vanderbilt that there was a kidney stone, he kind of freaked out,” said Ball. “They had me go through a couple of different tests. But when they tested the kidney, they found no signs of the kidney stone.
“All I am going to say about that is that God dissolved the kidney stone,” he said. “It’s gone. And I’m not having to worry about it. It’s amazing.”
Ball said during his most recent check-up, his “numbers were excellent” and he was told that his new kidney has already grown since the procedure.
“God is continuing to bless me with this new kidney,” said Ball. “I feel invigorated.”