Imagine traveling all the way across the country to have yourself cut open and one of your vital organs extracted, all for someone who just four months ago you didn’t even know existed.
At this very moment, my friend Richard Vier is in surgery at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., to have one of his kidneys extracted. In the very next operating room is a 26-year-old who is dying from end-stage renal disease. He is waiting to have Richard’s healthy kidney transplanted into his body. If it goes well, it will save his life.
In June, Richard read a post in Chris Hodapp’s Freemasonry blog talking about a young D.C. Mason by the name of Chris Stevenson who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. He suffers from juvenile diabetes, complications of which caused his kidneys to fail. Chris has been undergoing lengthy kidney dialysis three days per week. GWU’s Transplant Institute says at least ten people in this country die every day waiting for a new kidney to be available. That blog post struck a chord in Richard. He felt compelled to respond.
Richard is a 32-year-old from Ogden, Utah, where he is the junior deacon of Golden Spike Lodge No. 6, and the father of two little girls. He contacted Chris and the GWU Transplant Institute, then began the lengthy and exhaustive transplant screening process. Transplant Institute staff told me the blog post had generated a lot of inquiries about Chris’s case, but many people who are interested and start the process are not a good match or not medically cleared. Richard, who had never been to the District of Columbia before, came from Utah to D.C. three times for testing and evaluation, before flying in from Los Angeles last night to have today’s surgery.
We Masons give a lot of lip service to the concepts of brotherhood, fraternity, and looking out after the needs of one another. We couch lofty ideals in honorable language. We say, oh, yes, if you are in dire need, if the likelihood of saving your life is greater than the chance of losing our own life, we will immediately spring to your assistance and help you. Yay, team! Brothers!
But in the real world, do we really do that?
Then here comes Chris Stevenson, a young, ambitious, worthy Mason with a terminal condition. We can’t just send our “thoughts and prayers” and save him. Our lodges can write checks for millions of dollars, but that money isn’t going to keep Chris alive. He is dying. What he needs is a mere one-third pound of living flesh from another person, a healthy, functioning kidney.Richard Vier heard the call. He volunteered to come to the aid of a man he had never seen, never known, never met. There is sacrifice. There is risk. There is pain. There is blood. There will be scars. This is major surgery; there is the very real chance Richard could die.
Yet, Richard decided that the chance of saving his brother Chris’s life is greater than all the risk and sacrifice to himself. He’s giving Chris one of his kidneys.
I met Richard at the airport two weeks ago when he came to D.C. for his last round of testing and screening. I wanted to make sure he was healthy and happy, because if something goes wrong or his health or condition doesn’t permit him to actually donate, I’m his back-up (those of you who’ve been worried about me and why I’ve been going to so many doctor appointments and tests lately, now you know, so you can stop worrying). Chris was in class that night, so I took Richard to a lodge where my friend Doug is master, and we all broke bread together and sat in lodge together as brothers. It was a meaningful experience. Richard is an honorable man. He has an amazingly pure and humble heart. I asked him why he was doing this. He said when he read about him, aside from Chris being a brother in need, what struck him most was that Chris was just so young. Truly, Richard knows what it means to be a brother.
I’ve known Chris since 2012, when my lodge had the honor of conferring his third Masonic degree on him as a courtesy to his own lodge, and I served as senior warden on the team. Since then, I’d see Chris now and then at various functions around town. He’s quiet and studious. He’s a good guy. He has potential. I’m pleased he’s started graduate school this fall working on a J.D./M.P.A. program, and it worried me that he was going to try to start law school while undergoing dialysis. Dialysis is time-consuming and exhausting, with side-effects that would distract from the focus required for law classes, especially at a viciously competitive law school like GWU. He needs this transplant.
So, right now, my two friends should both be in surgery. Richard’s will take about three hours. Chris’s will take about seven hours. And then we wait.
Thus, to all my Masonic brothers, I hold Brother Richard Vier up to you as a hero and a selfless role model. When next you hear of a brother in need, even if you don’t even know him, how will you respond? Would you shed your blood? Would you risk your life for a worthy, distressed brother? Would you emulate the example of Richard Vier?
Think about it.
UPDATE 10/9/2017, 2:30:
As of 2:30, Mark Wright reports that Richard is out of surgery. The doctors say his procedure went well. Chris will still be in surgery for several hours.
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