It is hard to imagine anyone getting a better Christmas present than Isaac Sirk. Not exactly something Santa can provide, all Sirk wanted was a kidney.
He’s getting it.
Providing the gift is his fiance, Lacey Smith, who already gives tirelessly to Sirk on a daily basis through assistance with his treatment, preparing diet specific meals and more. That is also part of the reason Sirk was opposed to Smith even being tested.
After four candidates came forward and each was ruled out as a possible donor, Sirk recently learned he will be getting a new kidney his body desperately needs.
"We put his story on Facebook and shared it with friends in the community," said Smith. "We’ve had four people tested."
BHDC employees Susan Yarborough and George French were tested. Cheryl Reed and Chelcie Ritchie — Sirk’s cousin — also came forward.
"Plus there were many others who took the number and called but they weren’t a match," said Smith.
"The Mayo Clinic said they had so many people call that a lot of people at the Mayo Clinic wanted to meet me because they were fascinated by all the people who called to try to donate to me."
That was enough for Smith.
"I felt like we put his story out there and trying to reach out to someone and he wouldn’t let me get tested for so long but I felt like I needed to grab the bull by the horns," says Smith.
"Finally she demanded," Sirk said.
"I’m healthy. Why not. There’s a lot of people that aren’t healthy enough to undergo a surgery like that," said Smith.
Sirk still had to be convinced. Research did that.
"They have a 98.98 percent success rate for a living kidney donor," said Smith. " It’s more than the whole nation."
"And, they’ve never lost a patient during a kidney transplant," Sirk adds.
Finally convinced to check, Smith first had a kit to complete. The blood types matched. Then an evaluation was favorable.
"They couldn’t find not one thing wrong with me," said Smith. "They said I would be a perfect candidate."
A week later came the "official call" and in less than two weeks the pair will make another trip to Minnesota — they have to leave at 5 a.m. and drive straight through because lugging the equipment is not really an option — for a Jan. 9 surgery at Methodist Hospital.
"Each night takes three large bags of fluid. It would be impossible for us to take all the equipment to do a week’s worth of dialysis," said Sirk.
Essentially, Sirk is plugged in every night for 11 hours in a machine called a cycler.
"He has to be hooked up to it by 7 at night to be off of it in time to let him go to work in the morning," adds Smith. "So for 11 hours he sleeps."
Sirk, who jokes that though in their 20s the couple keeps senior citizen hours, has continued to work as a teacher’s assistant in the, ironically, recycling department at BHDC throughout his treatment.
While Sirk works, Smith gets everything ready for the next night.
"My machine requires a lot of maintenance. She has to break down tubing, she has to clean it every day, you have to re-tube it. I need someone to help me or I wouldn’t be able to work full time," said Sirk. "I really, really love my job at BHDC and I love those clients.
"I love being there for them."
"I think that is what has kept him going is his job," adds Smith.
BHDC loves him too. Numerous fundraisers have helped with trips to Minnesota and more.
"The generosity of people never ceases to amaze us," said Smith.
After the surgery, Sirk will be in the hospital for four days; Smith will be in the hospital for two. The couple will be in Minnesota for three weeks while Sirk is checked to make sure he doesn’t reject the kidney.
If all goes well, Sirk gets his life back.
"I’ll take meds the rest of my life, anti-rejection medicine, but no more dialysis and they’ll remove the tube from my stomach," said Sirk.
"It’ll be like a second chance at life," Smith adds.
"I’m very grateful baby," Sirk says, holding back emotions.
Smith believes a higher power is at work.
"I feel like if it is God’s will, He would let it be," said Smith.
"Our faith has grown tremendously since all this has come about with me," Sirk adds. "We really do appreciate the smaller things in life we took for granted before."
Sirk has also been an example for others. Family members of those similarly afflicted will call and ask for his advice, or that he speak to someone in his predicament about how he remains so positive.
Sirk won’t take a lot of credit for that.
"God is a big rock and a big moral compass me and Lacey is amazing. She’s my rock," said Sirk.
Sirk was diagnosed with Lupus in 2004 and his kidneys worked "off and on for three to four years," Sirk says. By 2009 the kidneys had little to no functionality. Chemotherapy dialysis offered little help and after a complete shutdown in December of 2011
"We realized now is the time to do something drastic about this," said Smith. "My grandfather informed us about the Mayo Clinic and we had done some research so we said, ‘we’re going to the Mayo Clinic."
Booneville Human Development Center employees organized a fundraiser that netted $2,000 and in January of 2012, Sirk and Smith went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
There Sirk went to the emergency room at the St. Mary’s and since then a fistula that had been placed in Sirk’s body has been ligated, or reversed, he said.
Sirk did not want to just lay around.
"I was looking to do a dialysis that would let me be active and have my health so I went with this paratenile dialysis which is where there is a tube in my stomach for 11 hours (per day)," he describes. "I plug it into a machine each night, it’s a cycler machine."
Sirk admits there is no way to top Smith’s gift this Christmas gift.
"Unless, Lord forbid, she needs a lung or something," said Sirk.
She will, he says, be getting a new last name but, ever giving, Smith doesn’t want that until Sirk can actively participate and enjoy the entire process, without spending half the day in bed.