Baylor alum receives kidney donation — from a former Baylor classmate
Two Baylor Bears who maintained a close friendship over the years since graduating from BU together in 2008 have gone through a remarkable medical journey that will undoubtedly leave them uniquely bonded as brothers for life.
Kevin Barrera, BSED ’08, was diagnosed six years ago with Type 2 diabetes. The disease was kept under control until a major setback in October of 2019.
“The blood levels were really out of wack, so I actually ended up spending five days in the hospital,” Barrera told Waco’s 1660 AM. “They ran every single kind of blood test you could think of just trying to figure out what could’ve attacked the kidneys so hard. Really, it was over probably six months that the kidney deteriorated to the point that I was about 10% function… They determined I had end-stage renal disease [kidney failure]. That’s when I had to go through the process of getting on dialysis and getting evaluated to be placed on the donor list.”
Confiding in a close circle of friends, Barrera relayed the news, with some asking if there was an option for them to sign up as potential donor matches. One of those friends was Barrera’s college classmate, David Kaye, BA ’08. The two have remained close since then, with each serving as a groomsman in the other’s wedding.
“I went to lunch with Kevin and we sat there at Guess Family BBQ and did the application on my phone,” said Kaye, who serves as Baylor’s assistant athletic director for communications. “The first big test was blood type, and when I asked him his and it matched mine, I told him, ‘I think this is going to happen. I think I’m going to be the person that matches with you.’ Sure enough, a couple of months later, they told me, ‘You’re looking good as a match, let’s do some further testing.’”
The long months of hopeful prayers were answered a few weeks ago, with Kaye and Barrera matched for the kidney donation, expedited for a surgery date on the calendar for June 3. If there was any doubt or hesitance for Kaye, that was quickly dissolved with a social media post by Barrera, grounding the decision in an act of service to Kevin, his wife, Stephanie, and their two children.
While Kaye will shrug off the remarkable nature of his action by suggesting that anyone else would do the same thing if given the opportunity, answering the call to leading a John 15:13 life — “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” — is not a new one for him.
Inspired by the events of 9/11, Kaye joined the Army Reserves in 2003 (the summer after his freshman year at Baylor) and was called up to active duty in 2005, putting his college education on hold. He was deployed to the Middle East, serving in Kuwait, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan over a 15-month deployment.
“The night before the surgery, Kevin posted a picture on Facebook of him hooking up to his dialysis machine and said ‘Hopefully the last time I’ll have to do this.’ That was the final reassurance I needed that, ‘Yes, this is something that I need to do.’”
With the full support of his wife, Emily, BA ’05 (associate director of advancement communications at Baylor), David and Kevin headed into surgery. With both surgeries taking more than four hours, it was a long, but successful, day in the hospital for the two.
Out of an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaye and Barrera were unable to see each other in person during the post-operation recovery at the hospital, but the nurses managed to arrange a special distanced reunion before Kaye left the hospital.
“They wouldn’t let us go into each other’s rooms, but we were two doors down from each other and they arranged where on the final day that I was there — you know after your surgery they make you get up and walk — and they kind of ‘wink-wink’ made sure we got up and walked at the same time so we were together in the hallway.”
Both Barrera and Kaye are working back to a full and speedy recovery, with Kaye returning to work after a short time away to recover and Barrera’s kidney function continuing to climb up to safe and encouraging levels that point to long-term acceptance and health of the donated kidney.
Sic ’em, Kevin and David!