Chance meeting saves Mill Creek man’s life 4 years later

MILL CREEK — Faith, not fear.

The story of how Lance Losey came to donate a kidney to Patrick Short revolves around acts of confidence that eventually overcame doubts.

After all, Losey barely knew Short.

But Losey’s donation of a vital organ was a gift that forever changed Short’s life, physically and spiritually.

“We live in a world where apathy can easily take hold,” Short said. “Trying to make life better for others is enriching the life I came so close to losing.”

A bonding moment

Patrick Short, 48, of Mill Creek, and Lance Losey, 40, of Bellevue, first met on a fly-fishing trip to Rock Creek, which runs east of Missoula, Mont.

The fishermen were a loose-knit group of Losey’s buddies, and Short was a friend of one of those friends. They fished together for a few days over several summers in Montana and on the Yakima River in Eastern Washington.

“I first clued in to Patrick’s condition (in the summer of 2009) when I realized he brought a kidney dialysis machine with him that summer. Even when we’re out on the raft, he would do a gravity dialysis, holding his bag (of flushing water) high above his head,” Losey said. “All of us that weekend spent time with him, noticing that he was in poor health.”

Short wasn’t going to let dialysis keep him from doing something he loved.

Losey and Short were the only ones on a particular stretch of the river when they realized they were in the middle of a school of rainbow trout. Short’s heavier fly rod had busted, so he sat back and watched Losey bring in one 18-inch rainbow after another.

“It was magical moment, something we won’t forget,” Short said. “We were amazed at God’s creation on that perfect day. I guess it was a bonding moment for me and Lance.”

It would be a couple of years before they would see each other again, the next time in a Seattle hospital.

A sister’s gift

If it happened today, the streptococcus A that made Short so sick when he was 12 years old would have been treated and probably wouldn’t have attacked his kidneys.

By high school, the damage done by the strep was revealed. In the late 1980s at the University of Oregon, Short, an athlete, was anemic and was told he needed a kidney transplant.

The donor was his sister Mary.

“It was an incredible act of generosity on her part,” Short said.

Within a year, Short had little to remind him of the transplant other than taking anti-rejection medication each day.

Then, 20 years later, doctors found that the transplanted kidney was failing. He underwent so many blood transfusions that each potential donor for another transplant was ruled out because of the changes in Short’s blood chemistry.

“I was still working for the biotech pharmaceutical company, still fishing and still trying to keep it all going for my wife Gina and son Austin. Then came the three years on dialysis,” Short said.

Eventually, he became so sick he was hospitalized with renal failure and the deadly medical condition called sepsis.

“I had to surrender control of the situation and believe in the power of prayer,” he said.

Gina, who he calls his “rock,” started a website explaining the problem and sent out an email to people they knew.

Called to act

Losey, an attorney, was working at a Seattle law firm when he got the email. He hadn’t seen Short in nearly two years.

“It was an apologetic letter from Patrick. He was reaching out beyond his family and close circle of friends to ask others to consider donating a kidney so he could live,” Losey said. “I remember my first reaction was, ‘Well, I hope he finds a donor.’ Then I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to go back and read the letter again.”

Losey, who had grown up in a Christian home, had been struggling with his faith most of his adult life. When faced with intellectual arguments, he was easily swayed by doubt.

Nevertheless, feeling he was being called to find out more, Losey went to Virginia Mason hospital where he learned what it would take to become a kidney donor. As he talked it over with his wife, Theressa, however, Losey decided he needed to beg off. His fear was that his youngest son, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, might need a kidney from him some day.

Losey didn’t hear much about Short for awhile. Then one day, Theressa Losey spoke with Gina Short.

“Out of the blue one day, Theressa asked me if I would still consider donating to Patrick,” Losey said. “I really could not think of a reason not to. If our son needed help later, we felt God would provide. I confidently made arrangements to tell Patrick that I would donate.”

A match

The doctors said Losey’s kidney was a great match for Short.

“The doubt and fear just fell away,” Losey said. “The idea of giving Patrick’s wife and son more years with him made me really want the transplant to happen.”

On Sept. 20, 2011, surgeons removed a kidney from Losey and another team of surgeons transplanted it in Short’s body.

Within hours of the procedure, the hospital arranged for the men to see each other.

“It was so gratifying. I always knew that when you give something of yourself, you get something in return,” Losey said. “I realized that God had led me every step of the way and that the Lord worked it all out for Patrick. The gift I got in return was faith. That issue is settled in my life, and Patrick is a daily reminder of that.”

Passing it on

The Loseys and the Shorts are good friends now. Both men are doing well. Last month, they collaborated on a successful blood drive at Short’s church, North Creek Presbyterian Church in Mill Creek.

“I feel called to help others as a result of being given the gift of life,” Short said. “On one side it is a story of maintaining faith to overcome the obstacles and adversity of an illness and on the side is a story of providing the ultimate gift of generosity. Together we decided to continue the awareness of being a donor no matter how big or how small.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Help celebrate by giving blood

For information on how to donate blood to celebrate Patrick Short’s successful kidney transplant, go to www.kidneyforpatrickshort.com/.

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