Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tom and Rita’s Story

I have written before about the evils of parental kidnapping, and how it is used as a weapon against parents who have won joint or full custody of their children. The gloomy procession of heart-breaking stories is never-ending: parents who have their lives destroyed because one day their children just disappeared, taken away in an act of vengeance and hate; children taken from their homes, taken to other states, other countries even, many times with their names and identities changed, children who lost one of their parents forever, unnatural orphans of living parents.

Because most of these stories have a sad ending, finding one with a happy conclusion is an uplifting experience. Recently I found one of those stories (Cabbie Hailed for Donating Kidney).

Tom Chappell, a Phoenix, Arizona cab driver, had to drive for the same always bad-humored client for a period of two months. Every time this client, named Rita, called the agency for a taxi, it was Tom who was dispatched. But when he realized that he was always driving Rita to a medical office to receive dialysis, he understood that her constant bad humor was the result of a severe kidney condition and the therapy she had to undertake in order to survive.

When he learned that Rita needed a kidney transplant, and that none of her friends or family was a suitable donor, Tom offered himself as a donor. Although Rita believed that Tom probably would not be a match, the required tests were run, and when the results came back, as Tom quotes, the doctors told them that “…if it was any closer we’d be siblings”.

Two important things resulted from this experience. First, that the surgery is planned for later this year and Rita will have the kidney that she so desperately needs. Second and most important, through the tests that were done for the transplant they discovered that the closeness between Tom and Rita was not accidental: they are father and daughter. Thirty years ago, after an ugly divorce, Tom’s ex wife took their daughter and disappeared. Now, thirty years after, and thanks to Tom’s act of generosity, father and daughter found each other precisely in a moment when, in Tom’s words, part of the reason he offered Rita his kidney in the first place is because he figured he did not have a whole lot more to live for anyway. But as he told Rita, “This has not just given you a new life. It’s given me another life.”

Never give up. Never lose hope.

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