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The gift of life

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May 11, 2006

Albany - The work of a church pastor extends far beyond the pulpit. They visit us when we're sick and comfort us in times of loss. But the Reverend Damon Fountain of Cordele went far beyond what was expected, and gave a young man something he'll never forget.

When he's not behind the pulpit, Reverend Fountain is visiting church members. He's devoted his life to meeting people's needs.

"It's a blessing, Miss Hobby, for me to do, because I know what God's done for me," he says.

So he didn't hesitate to answer the call as minister at Faith Baptist Church in Albany in November 2004.

"We knew that the Lord had opened the door for us to go there. Having the understanding as to why and what our main mission was there wasn't really clear to me," says the minister.

But it was about to become clear.

"One of the first things I was told was we had a young man in the church, Brad Temples, who was on dialysis,"he says.

At 24-years old, Brad Temples was struggling with a hereditary kidney condition.

"My kidneys worked fine up until I was 21 years old. All of a sudden, they just started failing," says Temples.

As his pastor, Damon Fountain went to his side.

"I got a phone call one day that Brad was in the hospital in respiratory arrest. And so I immediately started to the hospital," says Fountain.

But this trip to the hospital would turn out to be no ordinary visit.

"I got up there about to Slappey and Palmyra at the red light waiting. Something, as if you and I were talking, said to me, you know, I know it was the Lord just speaking in spirit, that I needed to talk to Brad about his kidney," he says.

Their bedside conversation revealed the young man was desperately awaiting a kidney transplant. And Brad's needs were even more complicated.

"He said, 'Pastor, I'm a rare blood type. I've got B+. And about that time, he, as soon as he said that, he looked at me and said 'Pastor, what do you have?' And I said, 'Brad, I've got B+.' A big 'ole smile came on Brad's face. And I knew, Miss Dawn, at that moment what I was supposed to do."

What he was supposed to do, says Reverend Fountain, was give Brad a kidney. One of his own.

"Just out of the blue, he just, you know, really wanted to be a donor. I couldn't believe it," says Temples.

A man he barely knew offered him the gift of life. He didn't want to get his hopes up.

"I've had several people offer but nobody really came through," says Temples.

But this offer was different.

"I had that peace. I found that peace. I didn't wrestle with it at all," says the minister.

Still, there was one hitch.

"I said I'm going to talk to my oncologist and according to what he tells me, I said, if he gives me a clear sign, than I'm going to be your donor, if I can," said Fountain.

Reverend Fountain, among the one percent of males diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy five years ago. Could he handle a kidney transplant?

"We came back and went to the oncologist and gave me a great checkup."

After a battery of tests and six months later, the minister was approved as a donor.

"February 21st, I think it was, we went to Shands in Gainesville and gave the kidney," he says.

"There's nothing really you can say. I mean, thank you's not enough," says Temples.

But it's enough for Rev. Fountain.

"I had a man tell me when I first went into the ministry 28 years ago, he said, it's all about giving. The only thing it's about is receiving the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your personal savior, but from there on, its about giving."

Three months later, Brad Temples is enjoying freedom from dialysis.

"One of the things he told me the other day was, he said, 'Pastor, before I wasn't able to drink milk and eat chocolate.' He said, 'but I'm wearin' some Oreos out and drinkin' up some milk.'"

And he's still amazed by this gift of life.

"Usually, you would save something like that for your kids or something if they ever needed it. But to do it for a stranger. Amazing," says Temples

"Every time he sees me, and his mom and dad, they say 'you'll never know how much this means.' And I can look in their eyes and I think I do. You know, I think I do," says Fountain.

Damon Fountain and his young friend now share more just a kidney.

"I completely know it's God who's done all this," says Temples.

"I've never regretted it. I've got such a peace about it," says Temples.

Peace that came from giving, in this case, the gift of life.

Every day in the United States , 18 people die awaiting organ transplants. Right now, there are 91,500 people awaiting organ transplants.

The United Network for Organ Sharing says a new name is added to the national waiting list every 14 minutes.

Sixty-thousand of them need kidneys and the wait for a kidney transplant has stretched from about one year in 1988, to as long as four or five years for some.

Brad Temples was lucky and he hopes his story will inspire you to become an organ donor. To find out more click here .

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