In December of 2005, Toledo hair stylist Margie Langenderfer noticed that one of her clients was looking terribly upset. She had just learned, it turned out, that her brother was in dire need of a kidney transplant.
Mrs. Langenderfer felt a nudge from above.
"God laid his hand on my shoulder and told me to offer mine," she said with a smile.
Mrs. Langenderfer, energetic and outgoing, smiles almost nonstop when she talks about the events surrounding her decision to donate a kidney to a man who was virtually a stranger.
"I told my client that I thought God was speaking to me. She looked at me like I was nuts," she said with a laugh.
But Mrs. Langenderfer had no doubts.
"I had to convince my husband why I wanted to donate a kidney. But in my heart, I knew from the beginning that it was something I had to do."
Her husband, Greg, her sweetheart at Evergreen High School whom she married nearly 30 years ago, said it took some convincing.
"Obviously I was concerned for her safety and her health," he said, "as well as all the 'what if' questions - what if a family member or a grandchild yet to be conceived were to need some help? We had long discussions. But based on those things, she was right in everything she told me. You can't live on 'what ifs' and you can't miss the opportunity to help somebody in dire need."
Mrs. Langenderfer, who attends Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Assumption, Ohio, described herself as more of a spiritual person than a religious one. But her husband said she is "more religious than what she's letting on to be."
Once she decided to be a donor, a co-worker at the Charles Paul Salon in West Toledo gave her a "prayer quilt" made by members of CrossRoads Community Church in Ottawa Lake, Mich.
"People would say a prayer over the quilt - friends, clients. In fact, I've loaned the quilt out," Mrs. Langenderfer said. "I tell people that it's got enough prayer in it to go around."
The idea of donating a kidney was something Mrs. Langenderfer had thought about for several decades, and she told family and friends that she would donate a kidney if necessary. But she had put the thought aside until her client mentioned her ailing brother.
The recipient wishes to remain anonymous, Mrs. Langenderfer said, but she described him in general terms as a Toledo native, 56 at the time of the transplant, who has been living in Los Angeles for more than 25 years.
He was a "career driven" professional who got married for the first time at age 53 and was the father of one small child, with another on the way when diagnosed.
After Mrs. Langenderfer's initial inspiration to be a donor, she scoured the Internet in search of potential risks. She also checked with her physician for any concerns about the procedure.
"The more I found, I could find nothing against doing it - other than that you'd be undergoing major surgery," she said.
Each of the two kidneys in a healthy person works at about 50 percent capacity, she said, and when one is gone the other kidney takes on a greater share of the functions in keeping bodily fluids in balance.
"My physician said, 'God gave you more than you need,'•" Mrs. Langenderfer said.
Dr. Zafar Magsi, a Toledo nephrologist who was not involved in Mrs. Langenderfer's case, said Mrs. Langenderfer's research is accurate.
He said long-term medical studies have shown no negative effects on kidney donors.
In addition, a kidney from a living donor tends to last much longer than one from a cadaver, Dr. Magsi said. The average life span for a kidney transplanted from a live donor is 15 to 20 years, while a kidney from a cadaver lasts an average of 10 to 13 years, he said.
Kidney patients wait an average of five to seven years to receive an organ from a cadaver, Dr. Magsi said.
The only restrictions made on kidney donors is that they cannot take Advil, Motrin, or other painkillers that restrict blood flow to the kidney, the doctor said. But they are permitted to take Tylenol and other painkillers that are processed by the liver.
It helps when a donor is healthy, and Mrs. Langenderfer, 49, exercises regularly. She also donates blood frequently and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.
When she put her name on the donor list, there were seven of the patient's relatives and friends ahead of her.
But medical tests to find a match are extensive - "they put you through the wringer," Mrs. Langenderfer said.
Most of the potential donors were ruled out, but in September, 2006, Mrs. Langenderfer received a phone call saying that the woman ahead of her had been determined to be a good match.
"I thought, 'OK, I get to hang onto my kidney a while longer,'•" she said.
But the woman was ruled out after a CAT scan revealed a small, benign tumor on the kidney.
Mrs. Langenderfer then found herself at the top of the list - no surprise to her, since she felt certain from the beginning that it was God's plan.
"I feel blessed to be the chosen one - and I use that term loosely," she said. "But I knew it would be me and that it would work."
She arrived Los Angeles six days before surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles, met the kidney recipient, and began preparing for the 4 1/2-to-5-hour surgery.
Mr. and Mrs. Langenderfer got an unexpected bonus while in L.A.: a visit from actor-comedian Adam Sandler, who happened to be a friend of the organ recipient.
"He heard about what we were doing and asked to meet us," Mrs. Langenderfer said.
On the morning of the surgery, Mrs. Langenderfer said her husband asked her if she were nervous.
"I said, 'No. I'm not.' I was a little nervous about the unknown, but I had a peace with it."
The surgery began at 8 a.m. June 11, and by 9 a.m. the next day, the doctors said she could go home.
"I can't explain how good I felt about it. I was on a euphoric high for about six weeks," Mrs. Langenderfer said. "I would do it all over again in a minute. People are quick to point out that I can't. But I would."
Margie Langenderfer will speak at a Healing Service at 4 p.m. Feb. 10 at Hope Lutheran Church, 2201 Secor Rd. The service will include praying, anointing, and laying on of hands as well as Holy Communion.
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.