Brother’s death honored by kidney recipient

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2004

“He lost his life to save mine,” said David Pettway of his late brother Johnson who died in a car wreck on March 19, 2001.

David teared up as he told his brother’s story.

David had been on dialysis, in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Then on a Sunday afternoon, he received word that his brother was injured in an accident. David arrived at the scene and bent down over his brother who was trying to speak, but couldn’t.

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Johnson was rushed to Vaughan Regional Medical Center and then was transferred to Birmingham.

In Birmingham, Johnson was placed on life support, but the family was told that technically, he was dead.

On March 20, the family, including Johnson’s wife, made the decision reluctantly to donate all of Johnson’s organs.

The doctors tested one of Johnson’s kidneys and found it to be a perfect match for David.

David was initially very reluctant to take the kidney, he said, but was encouraged by a nurse at UAB who assured him that Johnson was “with the Lord.”

David said he spent some time privately with his brother before Johnson was taken off life support.

The kidney transplant took place on March 21, three years ago today.

Johnson, whose birthday was March 22, gave more than a life-saving kidney to his brother.

A pair of pajamas and some shoes that were supposed to be Johnson’s but were the wrong size were given to David as well.

“Everything from him went to me,” he said with tears in his eyes.

David, an auto mechanic,

had been diagnosed with kidney failure in 1999 and for a long time lived in hope that a kidney transplant would be possible, but the waiting list is long. He said that many times he despaired the Lord would grant his request.

He never imagined that the answer to his prayers would come at so high a price.

David remembers his brother’s love of hunting and fishing, and of cars – fast cars. In fact Johnson, also a mechanic,

was showing off his souped-up truck to two friends who survived the accident.

“He was going way faster than he should have been,” David said.

David praised the love and support of the medical personnel who assisted him and his brother,

and provided comfort and care to family members during the ordeal. He also spoke of the tender care offered by his pastor, the Rev. John L. Jackson, and the people of the Alabama Avenue Church of God, where he is a member.

Most of all, David thanks his Lord for the gift of the kidney from his beloved brother.

His brother’s gift didn’t just save David’s life. Johnson’s heart, eyes and other kidney went to others.

“He still lives all over the place,” he said.