5 Inspirational Friendships
Jennifer Cox (at right), 58, church administrative assistant, Dallas
Pam Silvestri, 46, public-relations director, Dallas
Pam has a confession to make: “I wasn’t always a nice person,” she says. “In my 20s, I was focused on looking perfect and acquiring a nicer house and car. Even after I started working at the Southwest Transplant Alliance [STA], an organ-donation agency in Dallas, in 1995, I considered it just a good career move, not a personal mission.”
About a year later, she met Jennifer, who had received a donated kidney and had started volunteering with STA. The two quickly became close, if somewhat unlikely, friends.“I grew up on an Oklahoma farm and connect everything to my Christian faith,” says Jennifer. “Pam is a secular New Yorker. Still, our spirits connected.” Pam adds, “Jennifer became my surrogate mother. She was loving and compassionate, and she taught me to see the good in people.” When Pam revealed she was estranged from her mom, Jennifer encouraged her to make peace. (After seven years of silence, they did, in 2001.) And during Pam’s divorce, in 2005, Jennifer helped her remain friends with her ex.
Last year Pam saw a way to repay Jennifer’s kindness. Doctors had told Jennifer that her transplanted kidney had begun to fail. She had been put back on the donor waiting list, but her odds of getting a kidney soon weren’t good.
When Pam learned that Jennifer needed a donor, she immediately stepped up. She telephoned Jennifer at the church where she works and announced she had found a match for Jennifer’s blood type. “It’s me,” Pam said, then hung up before Jennifer could argue. “I sat at my desk for a moment thinking, Did I really just get this call?” says Jennifer. “Tiffany, the youngest of my three children, was so excited when I told her the news.”
The family’s happiness was short-lived. Two days later, Tiffany, who had battled lupus since childhood, unexpectedly died of related complications at the age of 24. Afterward Jennifer found one of her daughter’s last wishes written in her journal: “God, please fix the kidney my mom has, or give her a new one.”
This past January, Tiffany’s wish was granted. Jennifer received Pam’s kidney, and both came through the surgery without a hitch. “I’d been worried,” says Jennifer. “Pam had never had an operation in her life.” For her part, Pam shrugs off the praise she gets for her sacrifice. “To be honest, I wouldn’t give just anyone a kidney,” she admits. “But I would give Jennifer both of mine if I could.”
Jennifer says she’ll never forget this exceptional gift. “Because of Pam, I’ll be able to stay on this earth—with my three beautiful grandchildren—a while longer.”