Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Yesterday on my way to work I was listening to the radio and the man mentioned in the following article was being interviewed by two local morning personalities. He must be something else to give a virtual stranger one of his kidney’s. It is nice to know there are still good people in the world. I doubt that I would be so generous. The story is from the AP:

PHOENIX (Aug. 24) - Rita Van Loenen had no idea that a trip in Thomas Chappell's taxi cab could end up being the ride that saves her life.

"There are better odds of getting struck by lightning," Van Loenen said. "A random taxi driver offering to give me his kidney and all these pieces match. There has to be something behind this. How can this be?"

Rita Van Loenen was shocked that her taxi driver, Thomas Chappell, offered to donate his kidney to her -- and that he was a perfect match.

Chappell, who has been driving Van Loenen to dialysis appointments, shocked the Gilbert, Ariz. woman a month ago by offering to donate his kidney. But even more shocking to her was that doctors found they had the same blood type, that they were compatible.

"He calls me all excited. If we were a closer match, we would've been siblings. I was ready to fall off the floor," Van Loenen said.

The Phoenix taxi driver said he was a man of faith and that a higher power wanted him to step in.

"By then, me and the good Lord already had a talk. He said 'Tom, you go give her one. It will work," Chappell said.

Last year, Van Loenen, an instructor in special education methods, began feeling ill and experiencing water retention in her legs. She went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with kidney disease. With kidney failure setting in, friends and family were tested but there was no match.

In February, she received her cousin's kidney but that transplant failed. One day, Van Loenen, 63, found herself telling Chappell, 56, about how her son was now going to get tested. Chappell decided to add his name to the list.

"I said 'Rita, your son's a whole lot younger than me. He's got a lot more years. I'm gonna go down and go through the process and see if it will work.' I don't think she really believed I was going to."

The gesture evoked tears of gratitude from Loenen but she was still skeptical.
"A little bit in my heart I didn't believe it. He said 'give me the number' and I have transplant number at Mayo (Clinic in Scottsdale) memorized."

The two first met more than three months ago. It wasn't an auspicious beginning.
Chappell was half an hour late picking Van Loenen up for a dialysis appointment.
"When I got there she was not happy," Chappell said. "And I can understand it now. She's sick and all these things she goes through ... The next day, it just so happens I got her again."

Since then he has — and he insists it is by happenstance — been her taxi driver three to four times a month. For the last month, Chappell has started undergoing the arduous process of donor screening, undergoing numerous tests and exams. But none of it has brought second thoughts.

"This has put a whole new kind of lift in my boots. I never knew what it felt like to give somebody life and that's what I'm doing," Chappell said.

Van Loenen said Chappell never asked for any compensation. She still can't quite believe his level of commitment.

"I've never known anybody so enthusiastic to get a body part removed," Van Loenen said.

After the transplant, which hasn't been scheduled yet, Chappell will need to tread carefully. He will have to rest between four and six weeks but his work has promised to cover his lost wages.

"I've had drivers do some pretty incredibly amazing things for no charge. But this is just over the top," said Jim Hickey, national sales and marketing director for the company that owns VIP Taxi. "We're just so proud of him."

Van Loenen said that, thanks to Chappell, she can actually make plans for the future.

"Whenever I tell my friends or my family, they just find it so incredible," Van Loenen said. "They do call him an angel. My friend says there's angels everywhere. That's the right way to capture it."


Liz1971 said...

wow... that thomas is one amazing person. thanks for sharing! xo

Lori1962 said...

Tom has been the greatest friend to me also, including helping me stop drinking after 20+ years!! I'm so glad that Rita has this wonderful opportunity to get a better quality of life due to him & I wish the best to both of them! Great job!

Gpawilli said...

Lori -

I think that is WONDERFUL!

Tom must really be a very special man.... and I can tell you are fortunate to have him in your life.

I wish them both all the best tooooo!

Lori1962 said...

I still call him when the temptation gets too much; but I also know that he's helping Rita & that's going to take it's toll on both of them. So if there's anything that even Rita needs, I'd like her to know I'd be there, God willing?!

Gpawilli said...

Lori - You too must be quite a person youself. Have you met Rita?

Lori1962 said...

No I haven't met her yet & that's why I'd like her to know that what I said about helping her (or anybody else) out, I meant it. I've been disabled in the past (but getting alot better!) and I'd like to return the favor to somebody else that might need it.

Gpawilli said...

Lori -

I feel confident that you will in fact do just that.

Tom must truly be an angel and he is surrounded by angels....

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to met Thomas in Mayfield Ky visiting his daughter. He told me the story about him donating a kidney. My heart went out to him and the lady. Thomas told me that miracles do happen. All you have to do is beleive in God.

Anonymous said...

Looking to re-connect with Tom , if any of you know how I can contact him PLEASE let me know.
Pas this e-mail to him he can e-mail me
Tom this is Cindy from the Swapmart :-)