A story of true friendship and unselfish love
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2008
Updated: Saturday, September 12, 2009 12:09
During a time when people often look out for themselves more than anything else, an act of true sacrifice is hard to come by. The ideas of keeping others first and laying down one's life for a friend are taken to heart but, unfortunately, not as readily practiced.
For these reasons, the story of Eastern alumni Justin Perry and Anthony Morgan serves as a perfect example of what it means to be willing to do whatever God has planned.
On Jan. 24, Perry and Morgan underwent a kidney transplant surgery in Boston, Mass. Morgan, who has been dealing with kidney problems throughout his life, needed the surgery to bring his health back to normal, after being sick for four and a half months.
Morgan, who graduated from Eastern in 2004 with a degree in elementary education, was born with one kidney that only fulfilled a third of its typical functions. "My mom calls it a birth defect," Morgan explained. He had received a kidney transplant from his father when he was very young but was in need of a new one.
While getting together with some close friends from Eastern around New Year's, Morgan explained his situation. "Basically, I just asked everybody if anyone was interested in getting tested," Morgan said.
Perry, who graduated a year before Morgan in '03 with a degree in youth ministries, was also at the party and agreed to be tested. He and Morgan met at Eastern and were a part of the same circle of friends. During Perry's senior year, they lived in a house with other friends in Conshohocken.
After discovering that Perry was a match, he eagerly agreed to give his kidney to Morgan. In an email sent to Eastern's alumni office before the surgery, Perry said, "The reason why I am doing this is because Anthony asked. I have been friends with Anthony since college and seen him go through some tough times over the last couple of years with his health."
With Perry's humble personality, he did not tell many people about the transplant because he did not want to draw attention to it. His sister-in-law, Sue Volikas, who works as a recruiter for the Eagle Learning Center, shared the story with Mary Gardner, the director of Eastern's alumni office, for more prayer support during the surgery.
"I knew they were Eastern students, and I think a lot of people need to see this as an example," Volikas said. "I think it's important for students at Eastern to realize that they could be called upon at any time and to be open and willing."
"It's a huge testimony," Gardner agreed. "I don't even know these people, but it's a life lesson."
However, throughout the entire process, Perry never acted as if the transplant was out of the ordinary. "He's very humble and didn't think it was a big deal at all," Volikas said. "Before he went, he said, 'it's just a couple of hours.'"
"Justin, throughout the whole thing, was very nonchalant and relaxed," Morgan said. "It wasn't an emotional thing."
"If Sue hadn't told me, we would have never known," Gardner said. "[Justin's] so humble, he didn't want it advertised. We didn't call Oprah, which is what I wanted to do because this isn't a little thing."
Still, to Perry, the decision just made sense. "From the beginning I left it in God's hands," he said in the email. "I didn't have any say if I was a match or not, and I knew if I was supposed to do this God would make it happen. I know it is a major surgery and there are some risks involved, but if I can help a friend live a normal healthy life it is worth it."
Thanks to Perry, that is exactly what Morgan will experience. "Once I'm [fully] recovered, I'll basically be normal," Morgan said. After the surgery, he reported that Justin's kidney was working great and that his numbers were all normal.
It's still unbelievable to me that everything I've been struggling with from '05 to now was taken care of in one day's time," Morgan said.
Perry and Morgan influenced not only each other's lives through this act but their families and friends as well.
"It turned out to be a longer surgery than first expected, but the outcome has been miraculous," MaryEllen Perry, Perry's mother, said in an email. "Sometimes actions speak louder than words and certainly God will bless both of them."
"It's so deep that he did this and that he doesn't think anything of it," Volikas said. "What Justin did for Anthony is incredible and a perfect example of the unconditional love that God has for us."
As Christians, everyone can learn something from the decisions and attitudes both Perry and Morgan exhibited. They never sought attention or anything but prayer throughout the process. Instead, they trusted God that He would keep the surgery in His hands and see them through. Perry did not question giving his kidney to Morgan because he felt that it was enough that a friend needed it.
"I don't even know what I would do in that situation," Gardner said. "It makes everyone stop and wonder, 'Would I do that?'"