JACKSON — Savannah resident John Simmons got the ultimate Christmas gift, even if it was a few days late: a healthy new kidney.
Simmons learned in late December that pastor Stacy Goodwin, of Cross Roads Baptist Church in Bells, was a perfect donor match. On Dec. 27, both men were at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville for the transplant procedure, said John’s son Josh Simmons.
Josh Simmons, of Jackson, said the transplant was the best Christmas present his father could receive. The younger Simmons and his wife, Cynthia, attend Cross Roads Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon.
“I’m excited and extremely thankful ... a bit overwhelmed as well,” Josh said. “I still cannot believe that someone would be willing to give part of his life to save my dad’s life.”
Darla Goodwin was at her husband’s bedside as he woke up from the surgery. She asked if he had anything he wanted to say about the experience.
“Stacy wants to make sure everybody knows he’s not doing it for his own glory,” Darla said. “He’s giving all the glory to God.”
John and Cindy Simmons live in Savannah, where he gives private music lessons at Savannah Music Academy, a school he founded in 2001, their son said. His parents are members of Sharon Baptist Church there.
The transplant surgery came almost a year to the day that John Simmons was admitted to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital on Dec. 26, 2011, with end-stage kidney failure. He has been on dialysis since that day, Josh said. His father was placed on a transplant list in June, and doctors told him he might stay on that list for three to five years, perhaps even longer.
Goodwin, who has been the pastor of Cross Roads Baptist Church since August 2010, decided to be tested as a potential kidney donor in July after hearing about John’s hope of finding a match. The 42-year-old pastor learned both men had the same blood type, Josh said.
Doctors gave Goodwin and the elder Simmons numerous tests since July to ensure they were a match. Finally, the transplant surgery was scheduled and took place on Dec. 27 at Vanderbilt, Josh said. Both his father and his pastor were recovering and the transplant was a success, he said.
Goodwin reported on Jan. 3 from his home where he is recovering that he is “feeling good, still a little weak and sore.
“I love John and his family very much. I don’t want a pat on the back. I want anyone that is lost to see the love of God. … As Christians we are to be faithful and obedient to go where God says go and do what He says do,” wrote Goodwin in an e-mail.
Last Christmas (2011), when John Simmons went into renal failure, Goodwin went to the hospital to see him.
“He (Goodwin) knew he (Simmons) was in need of a kidney,” Darla Goodwin said.
“We began to pray about it at the time. When we heard Josh and Cindy weren’t a match, we looked at each other and just knew. We need to be obedient to what the Lord wants us to do and at least go through with the test of seeing if Stacy was a match. He was a match.”
Goodwin started the testing process, and through it all — even when they hit bumps in the road — the couple “continued seeking God’s plan and His will. It’s in His timing according to His plan,” Darla said.
From the waiting room at Vanderbilt University Hospital, Cindy Simmons said Dec. 27 was “a great day.”
“We’re so excited about what God has done,” she said. “How he has sent a special person into our lives, to give part of himself to help John live a better life. To give him life. It’s been an amazing few months … .”
Cindy said Goodwin told her and her husband in July that he felt that God had laid it on his heart to give John a kidney.
“We were just blown away that he would do that,” she said. “Even if he was not a match, it touched us that he was willing. Everything has just worked out beautifully. We say it’s our Christmas miracle.”
John has had diabetes for many years and had known his kidneys were failing, Cindy said.
“It feels like God’s hands have been all over this,” she said. “Things fell into place that would’ve been impossible without His expert timing.”
As of Dec. 27, John’s new kidney was functioning well, Cindy said.
“We just want to give thanks to God for all He’s done — God is in the miracle working business, and He’s given us a Christmas miracle this year,” she said as she began to choke up. “We’re blessed because we know we could’ve had to wait for years and maybe still not had one. The friendship will be with us for a long time.”
Cindy said her husband’s sense of humor showed in the nickname he gave his new kidney.
“He said ‘I’m going to name it ‘Goodwin’ because of Stacy’s last name and because it’s a good win for me.’ ”
— Used by permission of The Jackson Sun, Jackson. Connie Bushey contributed to the article.