YouthCARE chaplains often go above and beyond the call of duty to help others, but Heather van Oyen went even further by donating a kidney to help her friend, Cara.
Cara was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was three years old, and received a transplant from her mother when she was 13.
For the next 25 years, Cara managed to live life to the fullest; staying active, faithfully serving her church, becoming a nurse and volunteering in CVE.
About two years ago, her kidney began to fail.
Four people from Cara’s church offered to donate their kidneys — unfortunately, none of them were a match.
“I was driving to school one morning and I felt the Lord challenge me,” Heather said.
“I said ‘Yes, if you ask, Lord, I will do this. I know that it will be ok’.”
After months of tests and scans, it was determined the two friends were a match.
“Our tissue and genetics were so similar, doctors thought we were biological sisters,” Heather said.
In order for the transplant to take place, Heather needed to stay in peak physical condition.
She began running at 5am every morning, where she would take the opportunity to pray, reflect, and focus on the path ahead.
“I loved this time of physical and spiritual growth that was preparing me for the donation day and beyond.”
Cara’s body received the kidney without any complications. For both women, recovery from the surgery was faster than doctors expected.
“Apart from the first day, I had minimal pain and healed very well. Cara was out of hospital within six days instead of the estimated 14,” Heather said.
Cara’s new kidney is functioning at 90%, and she is able to drive on her own for the first time in two years.
“She has her life back.”