By Rev. Martin J. Bancroft, Jr.
During my final year in seminary, the seminarians would go to a parish over the weekend to help and serve. One day I found the parish cook crying in the kitchen because her son was dying of liver disease and did not have long to live if he didn’t receive a donor’s liver (A live donor can give 60% of their liver).
He and I were the same blood type and very close in age. I had never thought about donating any part of my body, but her tears made me want to do something to help. I went to the hospital, and they put me through many tests over a matter of weeks. Preliminary tests were promising, but the last test revealed that my bile duct split in such a way that I could never donate my liver. The intended recipient never received a liver and died one month later. I felt terrible that I could not help him. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Five years later, a parishioner told me her daughter was dying of kidney failure and didn’t have long to live. She and I were the same blood type. Yet donating a kidney is different than donating 60% of one’s liver. The liver is the only organ in our bodies that will regenerate. Giving away one kidney leaves the donor with one kidney for life. But that thought never entered my mind – I only wanted to help this mother and daughter. After months of testing, I was told that I would be her donor. This was never talked about in the seminary, but I asked myself one question: WWJD (what would Jesus do)? The answer was always there. The day they wheeled us into our separate operating rooms, I had a peace that was truly a gift from God. The operation was a success for both.
My life also began anew. Donating a part of my body to another human being was the gift of life to her and to me. It has been almost fifteen years since the donation, and both of us are doing well. Two years later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Recently, I conducted the wake service for her father, who loved me like one of his own children, especially for saving his daughter’s life.
Why did I donate? Maybe it was the power of the Holy Spirit that moved me to want to do something good for another person. I have no regrets. Life can be so short, and it’s not about one’s longevity but rather about what one does with the life one has been given. I pray that my donation made a difference in the life of someone else, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
I had not planned on becoming an organ donor. The timing was perfect, and by placing myself into God’s hands, I somehow felt all would be well. And it was! As a Catholic priest, I am grateful for the call to this ministry, but I am even more grateful for answering the call to be an organ donor. One does not have to be a priest to donate the gift of life. One only needs to have compassion for the other, empathy in trying to feel their pain, and courage in trying to do good for another human being. Organ donation has changed my life for the better! It has helped me to focus on the other, to think outside the box, and to keep one hand on the plow while never looking back. God is good!
Rev. Martin “Mickey” Bancroft is a chaplain at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY.