Mid-South man receives gift of life from unlikely place

By Joe Birch - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - At age 63, a Memphis priest, Monsignor Val Handwerker, and a printing salesmen, Ed Garavelli, are both on the comeback trail from surgery.

"Father Val and I will always have a special connection for the rest of our life," Garavelli said.

Handwerker recently stunned Garavelli with a precious gift:

"What's evolved over the years is living organ donors," he said. "It's a possibility now for so many of us who are blessed with good health."

At the time, Garavelli's health was anything but good, after polysystic kidney disease reduced his kidney function to only six percent.

"I was at the end of the road," Garavelli said. "My only option was a transplant or living on dialysis."

But Garavelli's fate began to change when an article about living kidney donors caught Handwerker's attention and planted a seed.

"I prayed that I might know what God's will is and the grace to carry that out," he said. "I didn't hear any voice or anything, but I sensed at this point in my life, I wanted to try it."

Handwerker kept his to himself as he presided over Cathedral services this summer that Garavelli attended. Both men were unaware of the others' prayer of the heart.

"Both of us were having unspoken prayers, and we would worship together and that means a lot think to both of us," Handwerker said.

While Handwerker was willing to donate his kidney to whomever needed it most, his rapidly worsening parishioner became a focus. Secretly, he visited Garavelli and his wife and offered to serve as donor.

On November 8th, the pair underwent surgery at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute. The operation was a success, and Garavelli now has his priest's kidney.

The pair hope their story will inspire others to consider becoming a living kidney donor.

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