Sometimes, just when things seem to be working out, they don’t. Then they really do.
In the fall of 2017, Dwight Blankenship, senior pastor at Parkway Baptist Church in west St. Louis County, learned his kidneys were failing. His Missouri Baptist Medical Center nephrologist, Jay Seltzer, MD, advised a kidney transplant. Fortunately, a suitable donor was close at hand.
Dwight’s wife, Sherry, immediately volunteered. She’s also the lead chaplain in MoBap’s pastoral care department, and heads Parkway Baptist’s Women’s Ministry.
Tests confirmed Sherry as a compatible donor. Dwight’s surgery team was excited to find Sherry’s blood and tissues compatible, helping immunosuppressive drugs to prevent organ rejection. The Blankenships began extensive testing at MoBap and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in December 2017 to prepare for the transplant. Then things got complicated.
Dwight’s pre-surgery tests just before Christmas revealed arterial blockages. MoBap cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Mauney, MD, performed quadruple bypass the next day. Immediately afterward, Dwight began receiving four hours of dialysis, three times a week. Dialysis kept him alive, along with hope that after the transplant, he would no longer require dialysis.
Dwight’s recovery from the cardiac surgery went well, and on June 19, 2018, BJH nephrological/renal transplant specialist Jason Wellen, MD, and his team performed the kidney transplant. Throughout, the couple was sustained by the promise in Scripture’s Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”
The MoBap community stood with them, too. Sherry says, “Heartfelt prayers came in from every corner.” MOBAP housekeepers, physicians and nurses rallied around them. MoBap president John Antes expressed the hospital’s support. Pastoral care director Alan Runge and MoBap surgeon Chris Pruett, MD, came to BJH to pray with Dwight and Sherry and their two sons on the morning of surgery. All of which leads Sherry to observe, “People at MoBap go the extra mile.”
Support didn’t end with the operation. During their shared recovery, the Blankenships received home-cooked meals via a meal train organized by their Parkway Baptist congregation, and a kindly neighbor mowed their lawn. There was also a very practical assist from BJC. As an organ donor, Sherry received four weeks paid leave from BJC. Adding that to four weeks of paid time off, it covered her eight-week recovery.
Dwight felt better immediately after the transplant, although he was physically weak. Within six weeks, he was back in his pulpit at Parkway Baptist. He says, “Every Sunday morning, I got stronger.” His total recovery time was about two months.
For a pastor who often takes his ministry to hospital patients, he says it was strange being on the other side of the bed. Having learned from his experiences, Dwight counsels people facing surgery or other major treatment to build a relationship with their medical team, dispel frightening unknowns by asking many questions, and line up the supporters in their lives before going into the hospital. Summing it all up, he says, “I simply can’t say enough about the excellent treatment I received at Missouri Baptist.”