Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer
When Ken Bass of Callahan learned he needed a kidney transplant, a twist of fate brought him Doris Smith.
Smith, of west Jacksonville, says God simply put her in the right place at the right time. Bass says he'll always be thankful.
"You can never say thank you enough," Bass said Monday, less than a month after the successful transplant. "From now until eternity, I can never say thank you enough."
Bass was first diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, 15 years ago. FSGS affects the kidneys' ability to filter waste products from blood.
FSGS forced NBA star Alonzo Mourning to retire in November. Mourning received a kidney from a cousin in December.
Through a regime of medication, Bass was able to slow the deterioration of his kidneys and maintain an active life. He not only continued working as supervisor of the Florida Air National Guard's jet engine shop at Jacksonville International Airport, he consistently passed the physical tests required of Guard members.
But Bass knew there was a possibility that someday he would have to undergo dialysis or have a transplant.
Smith first met Bass and his family three years ago when she began attending the First United Methodist Church of Callahan.
She was working for a woman who needed help getting her mother, a recent stroke victim, to church.
Although Smith hadn't been to church in years, she offered to take her boss' mother to services, which turned out to be at Bass' church, First United. Smith said she liked attending the church so much she eventually offered to take the woman in her care to Sunday school, as well.
It was during Sunday school about two years ago that Smith overheard Bass' wife, Susie, say her husband probably would need a transplant one day. Smith said she immediately knew she was destined to help him.
"I knew it for a couple of years," Smith said. "It had to come from God. I just knew it right then. I was going to do it."
Bass' condition eventually worsened, and his kidney function dropped to 6.1 percent. Patients with 5 percent function usually go on dialysis, which is a lifelong treatment.
Bass' doctor determined he would be a good candidate for a kidney transplant, which would remove the need for dialysis, so he referred him to the Jacksonville Transplant Center at Shands Jacksonville. Bass' immediate family members were eliminated as potential donors for various reasons, so he was put on a waiting list.
Center director Thomas Peters said doctors at the center perform 50 to 60 kidney transplants annually, but with 200 people on the center's current waiting list there's always a need for more donors. Another 300 are being evaluated for transplants, Peters said.
Nationally, more than 59,000 people are waiting for a kidney, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. …