A supervisor in the Madison County Probation Department is taking the meaning of friendship a step beyond the ordinary by agreeing to donate a kidney to a former co-worker, who has been off work since 2003.
Glenda Bell, 50, supervisor of Madison County Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Pretrial Services, is scheduled to donate a kidney to Michael Chatman, 44, of Granite City on Aug. 25.
The two started working together in 1993 and remained friends after Chatman went on disability because he must undergo dialysis three hours per day, six days a week. By Sanford J. Schmidt. The (Alton) Telegraph.
"Her generosity is unbelievable. Every time I think about it, I just tear up," said Rhonda Wiegand, a Probation Department staff member who is helping raise money to defray Bell's expenses.
Bell has used up most of her sick and vacation time and will require from four to six weeks to recover, so she must take unpaid leave.
Wiegand said a special event is set at the Edwardsville Pizza Hut for the night of Aug. 25, the same date as the operation.
Chatman said he was diagnosed with kidney failure in 1999 during a routine checkup. He was able to stay on the job until 2003, but the dialysis began to take up so much of his day that he had to go on disability.
He said the cause of his renal failure is unknown. Doctors have told him it could be traced to a number of causes.
Bell and Chatman have stayed in touch. They have lunch occasionally, talk on the telephone and exchange emails.
Bell has been working for the Probation Department since 1985, and her and Chatman's career paths happened to parallel each other to some extent. They both worked in pre-trial services when they first met.
Chatman eventually transferred to Intensive Probation until he was promoted to supervisor of that department in 1998, the same day that Bell was promoted to a supervisory position.
Both Chatman and Bell are married and have grown children.
Chatman said he had assumed he would need dialysis for the rest of his life, but starting in 2008, he began to think about having a kidney transplant, so he could live a life without having to plan all his travels and so forth in advance in order to receive dialysis.
He was put on a transplant list in 2009, and Bell applied to donate without telling her longtime friend.
"I have known that he has been on the recipient list for a kidney for quite some time and, probably like him, kept thinking that this would happen for him much sooner than it has," Bell said.
"When I began researching into kidney donation and discovered that my life risk would be minimal, while his chances would continue to diminish, it was not difficult to follow through with the testing," Bell said. "I'm thrilled at the thought of making Mike's quality of life so much better than it has been, and I hope that both of us can continue our friendship until we are both very, very old."
"I didn't want a kidney from a family member or friend," Chatman said, feeling that it was too much to ask.
"He would never ask," Bell said.
Bell said she had a feeling when she applied that she would be a match.
"I just felt I was going to be a match," she said.
She said that she is more certain now tha
n ever that she made the right decision.
Chatman said he was surprised when he was told that Bell was going to be a donor. He said if had had known she was applying, there was a chance he would have turned it down.
"I was actually surprised that anyone would do that for me," Chatman said. "Since the call from Glenda, I have experienced many positive emotions, since I know that my life and the lives of my family members will change drastically on August 25th, thanks to a lot of people, especially my friend, Glenda."
Chatman and Bell have the same blood type. Their tissues had to match in six different criteria for the donation to be possible, but an exact match is not as good as a close match, they said, adding they are not certain why that is.
The transplant will be at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Both Bell and Chatman will have a team of doctors and nurses assigned to them.
The incisions will be made at about the same time, and the kidney will be transplanted as soon as it is removed from Bell.
Then, they will have to wait to find out whether Chatman's body rejects the kidney.
"It could reject in two days, or it could last 30 or 40 years," Chatman said.
The long-term effects on Bell will be minimal.
"My (remaining) kidney will have to enlarge, but my life expectancy will not be reduced as long as I stay healthy," she said.
Wiegand said people can donate by making out checks to The Glenda Bell Organ Donor Expense Fund.
Checks can be sent to the Madison County Probation Department, c/o Rhonda Wiegand or Glenda Bowker, or directly to The Glenda Bell Organ Donor Expense Fund, c/o The Clover Leaf Bank, 300 St. Louis St., Edwardsville, IL 62025.
"In the same spirit of giving, the friends and co-workers of both Glenda and Michael would like to make Glenda's incredible gift easier by helping out with the expenses that she will incur due to the lengthy recuperation time," Wiegand said.
She said there is a raffle planned, but at this time, people can contact her to find out how to purchase vouchers for pizza at the Pizza Hut, 2386 Troy Road. Ten percent of the purchase amount will be contributed to the fund.
Both Bell and Chatman said Tuesday they are counting the days until the transplant.
"It's two weeks and two days. By this time August 25th, we'll be in recovery," Chatman said.