By Bruce R. Posten, Reading Eagle
(Used by permission. This article appeared in the January 8, 2006, issue
of the Reading Eagle.)
Last summer, Arthur and Gail Dawson White of Wyomissing were hoping
and praying that Arthur would receive a gift. Before Thanksgiving, Dawn
Baxter, 49, of Brecknock Township gave him one – a kidney.
Dawn said she was moved to help the Whites after a letter from Gail – a
plea for a kidney donor – crossed her desk as an office administrator
for West Berks Mission District, a coalition of 47 Lutheran churches
in Berks County. The Whites are members of Atonement Lutheran Church,
In August, Dawn read an article about the Whites’ situation in the
Reading Eagle. The successful organ transplant on Nov. 11, at Pinnacle Health
Transplant Center in Harrisburg, is expected to last 61-year-old Arthur
the rest of his life – 15 to 25 years perhaps.
Since the operation, Arthur has been thriving, traveling with friends,
visiting his wife’s Philadelphia elementary school, doing chores
around the house and serving on an assessment board.
It is the second life-saving kidney transplant for Arthur, who inherited
the gene for polycystic kidney disease from his mother. The disease
killed three of her siblings near the age of 50.
Polycystic kidney disease involves the growth of cysts on each kidney.
Arthur’s first operation, in 1994 at Hershey Medical Center, used
a donated kidney from his wife. That gift lasted nearly 11 years before
facing chronic rejection last spring, forcing Arthur to return to dialysis
three days a week.
The Whites believe persistence and perseverance on Gail’s part, and
patience and positivism on Arthur’s, miraculously led them to the
kindness of a stranger, Dawn.
Dawn respects what the Whites believe.
Describing herself as a faithful Lutheran, Dawn also is a wife; mother
of two adult children; a part-time parish secretary at St. John Lutheran
Church, Mohnton; and a member of Allegheny Lutheran Church, Knauers.
She looks at life this way: “I don’t ask people to do things
I wouldn’t want to do myself – or haven’t done myself.”
With a diabetic husband and mother, Dawn considered the possibility
that one day she might have to be an organ donor for a member of her own
“I always thought about being an organ donor, but, honestly, I thought
I’d be dead before I did it.” she said, with a chuckle.
Nevertheless, live transplant donations have a strong success rate.
Dawn learned this and much more when she called Gail to glean details
about the Whites’ situation to pass along to the local Lutheran
Subsequently, she talked to Geri Goldman, transplant coordinator at
PinnacleHealth, and gathered even more information that increased her
resolve to undertake
the preliminary tests to become a kidney donor.
“I found out my blood type didn’t match my husband’s, and my
mother told me she wouldn’t want to go through it (an operation),” Dawn
Dawn’s blood type did match Arthur’s.
At that point, she pondered deeply. She seemed motivated by one important
“I took into consideration that I would want somebody to step up and do
for my husband what I did for somebody else.” Dawn said.
“It is so hard just to say one thing about Dawn,” said Gail, who
played the role of vocal medical advocate for her more taciturn husband.
“Dawn gave us our lives back, and she asked for nothing,” Gail said. “We
don’t know how to thank her enough.”
“It was Dawn’s kindness and Gail’s perseverance that made this
possible,” said Arthur, who underwent the transplant on a Friday and
was up walking into Dawn’s room on Saturday to make sure she was
And, indeed, Dawn was. She left the hospital on Sunday afternoon. Arthur
was home by Tuesday.
“I really didn’t have any problems,” said Dawn.
On Christmas Eve, Gail and Arthur attended worship services at Dawn’s
church, where they took poinsettias and flowers in her honor. They also
reacquainted themselves with members of Dawn’s family: her husband,
William, an underwriting manager for an insurance company; and sons,
Jason, 27, a chemical engineer; and Andrew, 22, enrolled in a mathematics
program at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“I don’t know, but there was some electricity – an instant connection – I
felt with Dawn when I first talked with her on the phone before I knew she
would be a donor, when she was just gathering more information to relay
to church members,” Gail said.
The Whites had crossed paths with Dawn earlier last summer when she
was working at a city Habitat for Humanity project that Arthur was
supervising. They weren’t formally introduced at that time.
When Dawn finally called the Whites in late August to tell them her
blood type matched Arthur’s, Gail sensed there was a miracle afoot.
However, there were more tissue tests to be done.
“They went to the test on Monday,” Gail said, “and by Wednesday
there was a florist’s truck at our door with a delivery of one red
rose and note addressed to Art that I promptly opened. The flower and note
were from Dawn. It read, “Time to celebrate, we are compatible.” The
florist must have thought it was a computer dating thing.”
In this new year, the dried rose with its note and ribbon remain in
the White’s home on a hutch.
Gail keeps it as a symbol of what is possible when someone reaches
out to a community with nothing more than hope.
For Dawn’s part, she wishes her act may allay fears and inspire
others to do what she did, even though she appreciates that not everyone
capable of bestowing such a gift.
Gail said when she and Arthur attended Dawn’s church on Christmas
Eve, the minister told the story of the surgeon who, before the operation,
routinely asked Dawn a series of questions about her organ donation: “Are
you giving for a family member? Are you giving for a close friend?” Dawn’s
answers to both questions were “No.”
What followed was a pause…
And then Dawn said, “I’m giving to someone who needs it.”
It was an answer simple enough and miraculous enough, too.