Rev. Brandon Macadaeg and his mother, Cindy, on New Year's Eve, four days after the surgery.
For Rev. Brandon Macadaeg, the opportunity to become a kidney donor for his mother has been a spirit-filled journey.
The surgery, which took place Dec. 27 at Stanford University Medical Center, was successful. "Everything went well," Father Macadaeg said. Both the son and his mother, Cindy, were out of the hospital four days after the surgical procedure.
The surgery took place on the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who is best known as the beloved disciple who stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus was being crucified. Jesus said to him, "Behold your mother," speaking of His own mother as she stood next to the saint.
For Father Macadaeg, undergoing the surgery on this particular feast day is providential. To be able to show love for one's mom is "a very powerful thing for me to do," he said.
The new kidney, which began to immediately do its job of removing waste products and excess fluid from the body, means that Cindy Macadaeg no longer has to undergo dialysis three times a week. Mrs. Macadaeg, who had stage five kidney failure, was on a strict diet, noted her husband, Cedric. "She is now eating foods that she couldn't eat before."
Father Macadaeg learned about his mother's health problem when he was away at a convocation for priests in 2016. Faced with that news he immediately went into research mode to better understand the situation.
The diagnosis came out of the blue, he said, adding that there is no history of kidney problems in the family. She had been suffering from high blood pressure, which can affect kidney function.
Not long after the diagnosis, Cindy Macadaeg went on dialysis which, according to the National Kidney Foundation, can cause a number of side effects including low blood pressure, nausea and muscle cramping.
Here in Northern California everyone in kidney failure is placed on a list to receive a kidney when one becomes available, Father Macadaeg said. The wait for a cadaver kidney — which comes from someone who is deceased — is 10 years. The priest said he learned that California has the longest wait for a kidney of any state in the country. "They rely heavily on living donors to step in and to do this," he said.
Father Macadaeg, not wanting his mom to have to wait so long on the list nor be subject to the side effects of dialysis, said he decided to look into becoming a donor. "The decision was mine — my parents didn't force me to do this," he said. In fact, he added, his parents "were more concerned about how (his being a donor) would affect my life."
Preparing for the donation took about a year. Father Macadaeg had to undergo blood and urine tests and be interviewed by the transplant team. A physical evaluation took place in June to ensure that he was "in tip-top shape." He had to lose weight, which meant "getting into good exercise habits."
All of this preparation was done in order to win the approval of the transplant team. Not only did the surgery get "the green light" in early December, Father Macadaeg turned out to be a near perfect match for his mom. This was good news because it meant the chances that his mother's body would reject the kidney were "very slim."
The priest said that as a result of this medical journey he has even more respect for the dignity of human life. "It is definitely a miracle," he said.
"I've learned a lot about what it means to be generous, which is significant because the priesthood is defined by what we give away, not what we hold onto. Giving a kidney away is a very priestly act that I am very blessed in doing."
Other blessings, in the form of prayers, have rained down on the Macadaeg family from the parish communities he oversees as administrator — St. Lawrence O'Toole-St. Cyril and St. Paschal Baylon, both in Oakland — and from Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, where he was formerly assigned. "Even nurses at the hospital prayed for me and my mom, people we didn't even know," the priest said.
He also noted with gratitude the many people who have stepped forward in the diocesan community — including retired priests Fathers Jose Leon and James Pickett as well as Father Wayne Campbell, diocesan vocations director, among others who have worked to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the parishes continue while he recovers from surgery.
"People," he said, "have been just wonderful."
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