Most Southern Gospel fans are well aware of the miraculous life Michael Combs has lived. He had a liver transplant on September 9, 1991 which was the first physical miracle in his life. God used that miracle to give him a testimony that gave hope to hurting people and offered salvation to the lost.
In September 2015, Michael was diagnosed with Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease. It became so bad that he was living on 9% of his kidney usage. In December 2015, he was placed the Living Donor Transplant List. Seeking to make their need known for a kidney donor, they sought help through their large social media outlets. They mailed out over 100 donor packets. It was very puzzling and discouraging because nobody seemed to be compatible. Over the months, Michael’s kidney functions continued to worsen.
Later in 2016, Michael’s wife Denise was in conversation with Wake Forest. At that time the puzzling question was answered. The reason a donor had not been found was because due to Michael’s liver transplant 25 years ago, he had a Panel Reactive Antibody (PRA) level of 88% – meaning he only had 12% chance of even getting a kidney transplant or finding a donor. He was labeled a “highly sensitized patient”. That was discouraging news yet they kept believing and trusting God. They did not go public with that information.
Denise was speaking with Wake Forest again in reference to Michael’s PRA levels that still remained at 88% level in November of that year. Denise was advised at that time that John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland did those types of kidney transplants. (Keep in mind that Paul Godfrey, a possible donor, was now in touch with that same hospital.) He and Michael both at this time were being evaluated. Denise called John Hopkins and told them of Michael’s situation and they were very interested in doing his transplant. Denise told them Michael was already working with a hospital in Baltimore and he was gonna be there in a couple of days. John Hopkins asked when and where.
Denise said, “On November 8th, the girl at John Hopkins told me that the University of Maryland Medical Center also did those type of transplants. So keep in mind here God has placed the possible donor and Michael at the same hospital that does specialty surgeries.”
The things that would happen next are so mind boggling that only God could have plans so miraculous. He would change the lives of Michael and his medical team by giving Michael another incredible testimony that will no doubt touch millions of souls in the future.
During the initial evaluation period, Paul Godfrey, from Knoxville, Tennessee, decided he would further pursue being a donor and contacted another hospital who dealt with more difficult transplant cases. He reached out to University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. During this same time frame, Michael and Denise were advised by doctors at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to seek help at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland who had a lot of experience with transplant cases similar to Michael’s.
On January 2, 2017, the testing was complete, and the transplant team would soon meet to set the date for the transplant. This is where the story really becomes interesting. On January 8, Michael receives a call from Baptist Hospital offering him a kidney from someone who had just passed away. Since time is of the essence in these cases and Michael lived so close, he was contacted. Michael and Denise immediately left for testing that would go all through the night. At 8 a.m., Michael was scheduled for surgery.
Do you think that God doesn’t have His hand on everything they encounter? Michael and Denise met with the doctor that would be performing the surgery and they realized this very same surgeon was on the transplant team that worked with Michael’s liver transplant twenty-five years ago. Amazing!
Due to the fact that the donor kidney was “asleep”, the doctors advised Michael that it might take a day or two, or even a week for it to “wake-up” and start functioning, which would mean dialysis after all until the kidney “woke up.” After a six-hour surgery that went great, it seemed like another miracle when as soon as the kidney touched Michael’s body it “woke up” and starting working. Michael was moved to ICU where he was closely monitored for signs of rejection.
During all this time, the family was advised not to share information about the transplant until there were relatively sure that his body would accept the kidney. On January 10, the first blood work came back and the doctors were amazed at the perfect creatinine levels.
The doctors observed several things:
1. His creatinine level was perfect, rarely seen of initial readings after a transplant.
2. The kidneys were producing perfect amounts of urine.
3. His one kidney was functioning better than most people with two kidneys.
4. They didn’t really expect the transplant to be that big of a success.
Remember all the “special” things that the doctors said would have to be done for Michael before, during, and after his transplant? Due to the perfect match of the donor kidney none of those things were necessary.
Michael felt so good once they discharged him from the hospital that he drove himself home! Michael told Denise, “I feel too good not to drive myself home!”
Michael is at home enjoying some home-cooked food and reading all the cards he received from friends and family, especially the hand-made ones from three of his grandsons—Wyatt, Asher, and Elijah. Denise is trying to respond to all that have contacted them. Michael’s singing schedule will be modified for a little while, and they will be working closely with Beckie Simmons of The Beckie Simmons Agency on Michael’s ministry calendar.
Michael and Denise will always be extremely grateful to all of you who considered organ donation. They will always be grateful to Paul and Vicky Godfrey from Knoxville, Tennessee who would not take no for an answer. Michael and Denise thank all of you for your love, cards, support, and prayers through this long journey. A special thanks to our Pastor Sonny Thomas, his wife Julie, and our church family; we will never forget what you have done for us. So many churches have reached out to us. It has been wonderful how God’s people have pulled together.
Most of all Michael and Denise are grateful to their Lord that walked with them every step of this journey. They have seen God’s handiwork in every little detail. The way all the events transpired is just mind-blowing. But that’s our GOD!
Please remember the family of the deceased in prayer. They may never know who all benefited from organ donation, but we will surely never forget!
Cards of encouragement or donations to help complete the GoFundMe campaign can be mailed to:
PO Box 7
Deep Gap, NC 28618