Ed Draves had called his wife one day and asked her if he could donate one of his kidneys – thinking he was joking, she promptly replied “yes.”
The following day, Draves asked the same thing of his boss, he did, after all have to find out if his boss would agree to the time off. Again, the question was thought of as a joke and his boss replied “yes.”
“On a trip to Mexico, one of the guys there, Brother Joe, had said, ‘If you really want to pray a great prayer…' ” said Draves during a presentation on live organ donation at the Perry Rotary March meeting.
“Gary had kidney failure and was looking for an organ donor. I felt I had to do something about it. So I thought of Brother Joe’s words…’If you really want to pray a great prayer…’ So I prayed a great prayer and went and got a blood test to see if I could be a match with Gary.”
Just two years ago, Draves donated one of his kidneys to a "brother" in need.
He first found out about Gary through an “open letter” in The Masonic News, a newsletter for the Masonic Lodge Draves belongs to.
Gary Garippo was suffering from a form of noncancerous kidney disease and was in need of a transplant. After Draves read the letter, he went to get the initial blood test to see if he was a match.
Draves is a member of Western Star Lodge No 1185 and is on the Grand Lodge of Free And Accepted Masons of New York Blood and Organ Donor committee, partnering with Unyts.
According to its website, Unyts is a “donor center organ, tissue, eye and blood donation service in the Western New York community." Its vision is to “advance the dynamic Donate Life” message.
Draves ended up being the second-best match for Gary. Another Western New Yorker was the best match. However, as he put it, he did “pray a great prayer.”
“The woman who was the first match for Gary ended up having to back out. During the testing, it was found that she was prone to kidney stones. I got a call and was asked if I was still willing to donate.”
Draves said yes and soon began a battery of health exams – he had to lose a few pounds – and testing – blood tests, health tests, stress tests, and psychological testing.
“They had to ensure that I would have no regrets if the recipient ended up being a ‘jerk.’ They also had to talk with my wife and daughter to make sure they were supportive of the decision.”
According to United Network for Organ Sharing, in 2015, close to 31,000 organ transplants took place nationally. Approximately 81 percent (24,982) of the transplants involved organs from deceased donors, who can donate multiple organs. The remaining 19 percent (5,986) were made possible by living donors.
However, at one point in the testing, doctors were unsure if Draves was really healthy enough to withstand the surgery.
“Come to find out, I have a heart issue – prolapse mitral valve. Basically, I have a leaky heart.”
While his condition isn’t serious now, annual exams allow the doctors to monitor it. If at any time they notice a change, surgery can be performed before a life-threatening condition arises. However, Draves decided to get a second opinion. And while his condition was confirmed by a cardiologist, he also cleared him for live organ donation.
“I passed all the tests and surgery was scheduled. I went in on a Friday. By Saturday the nurses had me up walking around. By Saturday afternoon I wanted to go home. On Sunday, I went home.
“On Monday, I went with my wife to go get her glasses and I wanted to mall walk, so we did, and then we went to Denny’s for a ‘Grand Slam.' I didn’t take any of the prescribed pain medication, I took Tylenol instead.”
In the United States, Draves says 118,000 people are in need of an organ transplant, of those people, 22 die everyday because there is no organ for them.
“During the time we have been here, one hour and 15 minutes, someone has died.”
And the irony is, prior to Gary’s open letter and Draves's subsequent donation, Draves was not even registered as an organ donor.
As he puts it, organ donating “saves lives and leave a legacy.”
Draves and his wife live in Orchard Park with their two children. A wine manager with Premier Wine & Spirit in Orchard Park, he is also a volunteer with Unyts, Shriners, Masons, Grand Lodge Youth Committee, Zuleika Grotto (which raises money for dentistry for disabled kids), Windom Elementary Shared Decision Committee, and he's a martial arts instructor.
For more information on becoming an organ donor visit http://www.unyts.org/