For Tinley Park woman, kidney search ends in church
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com March 26, 2013 7:40PM
Rosa Covarrubias (left) and Tonya Moore (right) smile and laugh with each other at Family Harvest Church in Tinley Park, Illinois, Sunday, March 24, 2013. Both are members of the church and that's how they met and how Rosa became aware of Tonya's need for a kidney which she donated to her. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 28, 2013 6:19AM
Tonya Moore and Rosa Covarrubias have a lot in common.
Both are longtime members of Family Harvest Church in Tinley Park, where they sing in the choir. Both work as administrative assistants. They love to talk and laugh, and their birthdays are just weeks apart, with Covarrubias planning an upcoming 40th birthday party for herself that is sure to include Moore.
Despite the fact that Moore lives in Tinley Park and Covarrubias lives in Elmhurst, the distance is not enough to separate them.
The two have been “sisters in Christ,” as Moore calls them, for quite awhile, but now their bond is stronger than ever. It turns out their kidneys also were a near perfect match.
“The doctors said we matched like sisters,” Moore said.
That allowed Covarrubias to donate one of her kidneys to Moore. The two underwent surgery Dec. 26.
“I should have gift-wrapped it for her,” Covarrubias said.
Three months later, they both are all smiles and laughter as they talk about this life-changing experience they have shared.
They laugh about the hairline scars they were so concerned about and the “unexpected” 10 pounds they each gained after surgery, and agree that it was a small price to pay.
“I was praying I wouldn’t feel a thing,” Covarrubias said about the surgery.
“So was I,” Moore said.
Lupus attacked Moore’s kidneys when she was only 27 years old. It was a miracle that she survived, Moore said.
All was fine from the time she was 29 until she was 41, then she “rapidly declined,” she said. At 42, Moore started dialysis, three times a week.
“I was too scared to seek a donor. I could not wrap my mind around that,” she said. “But after a year of dialysis, I thought, ‘What could be worse than this?’ ”
As they sang together in choir, Covarrubias could see Moore was getting discouraged. She knew her kidneys were failing, and Moore asked her fellow choir members to pray for her.
“I cannot imagine what that would be like. I never ever experienced sickness like that. My heart broke watching her,” Covarrubias said.
As she prayed for Moore, she heard a voice telling her, “Why don’t you give her a kidney?”
“I know God is faithful. I know he hears our cries, but little did I know that I would answer her cry,” Covarrubias said. “I would want someone to do this for me.”
It took awhile before she approached Moore with the idea.
“It was really scary. I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure,” she said. “But once I told her, I thought, ‘What did I just say?’ I had to do it once I put it out there.”
They both believed that if God wanted this to be, Covarrubias’s kidney would match. But it would be another year before the transplant actually took place.
Covarrubias discussed it with her two teenage children and her siblings, who were “shocked but supportive,” she said. “My kids were scared, but when they heard it was for Moore, they said, ‘If it’s for Miss Tonya, you should do it.’ ”
‘She was glowing’
While it was all very scary for both women, it was also equally amazing.
Covarrubias said she could see “immediate results” in Moore.
“Before surgery, I looked at her and could tell by her skin color that something was wrong,” Covarrubias said. “The day after surgery, she was glowing. It was amazing.”
“I woke up from surgery and realized that — wow — I could see clearly,” Moore said, recalling how blurry her vision had become. The toxin levels in her body dropped immediately.
“The doctor told me the kidney started working on the (operating) table,” she said. “He told me I was a gold-star patient.”
After being limited to 40 ounces of liquid per day while on dialysis, Moore said the first thing she wanted to do with her new kidney was “drink a gallon of water.”
“I dreamed of drinking water,” she said, with a water bottle now at her side.
As they recovered, the two hung out in the hospital together, like students in a dorm. If the doctors wanted to find Moore, chances are she was sitting in Covarrubias’s room.
They joked about Moore developing Covarrubias’s personality traits now that she has her kidney.
“It’s like I have a new life,” Moore said.
She can eat anything she wants — along with her five daily anti-rejection drugs.
“I’m really happy for Tonya,” Covarrubias said as she placed her hand on Moore’s arm.
They both get choked up as they reflect on what happened between them.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, physically and mentally. You just have to trust that everything will come out OK,” Covarrubias said. “Every once in a while, when I reflect on it, I think, ‘Rosa didn’t do this, God did. Wow! How great God is.’ ”
“I have my emotional, crying moments,” Moore said. “All those tests you had to go through — I think about all of that. You had to go through as many tests as I did.”
“And I don’t like needles,” Covarrubias said with a laugh. “But I would do it all again. I would not hesitate. I would encourage others not to hold back but to give life.”