Vonden Sparks and Terry Meade have a spiritual and physical bond that will last the rest of their lives.

Vonden Sparks and Terry Meade have a spiritual and physical bond that will last the rest of their lives.

The two members of New Albany United Methodist Church hardly knew each other before Meade donated a kidney to Sparks in August.

Now, they consider each other family.

Sparks, 56, had end-stage renal disease and was constantly on dialysis before the transplant. He was diagnosed with renal disease in 2007 after years of difficulty from diabetes caused by chemical exposure.

The Johnstown resident was on his last leg when he appealed to his congregation during a prayer request in 2009.

He had been on the transplant list for two years and had exhausted other options. Sparks said he had survived that long because of faith and his sense of humor.

"The congregation has so many connections, and we didn't know if any of them individually would be able to help," said Nancy Goulet, head pastor at New Albany United Methodist. "(Meade) began the process immediately of seeing the doctors. It took quite some time for it all to come together."

As soon as Meade heard the prayer request, she felt called to help Sparks.

"God decided this whole event," said Meade, 64. "I would have never done it in any other event."

Meade, who lives in Westerville, went through about five months of physical and mental tests at The Ohio State University Medical Center to see if she would be eligible to donate a kidney to Sparks.

"I've been tested from the tip of my toes to the top of my head," she joked.

Sparks said he was amazed when he heard who his donor was.

"She contacted me about two weeks before the surgery and said that we've got a surgery date," he said. "I was totally shocked."

Goulet said she wasn't at all surprised when she heard the news.

"(Meade) is one always wanting to do for others," she said. "It didn't surprise me one bit. That is just her nature. It just warms my heart to know that people take their faith so seriously and that they are willing to give a part of themselves - literally."

Because of the experience, Meade said she has become a strong believer in organ donation. Both she and Sparks have been registered organ donors for years.

This week wraps up National Organ Donation Month.

"I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had double of everything," Meade said. "It only really hurt for about 12 hours."

She said helping Sparks has changed her life.

"The change isn't physical; it's more mental and spiritual," Meade said. "Knowing I've given him the ability to enjoy life a little longer it's hard to put it into words. It's a feeling of true fulfillment."

Sparks said the gift of life is the best gift there is.

"I have been a potential donor for years," he said. "I believe the donor program is very worthwhile. When I'm done with it, they can take it and have it."

Sparks said he thinks everyone should be an organ donor.

"I think it's a shame that (so many) people pass away and are buried with organs," he said. "Why not give the gift of life to someone who needs it? There is no reason for anyone to die for lack of an organ."

Sparks and Meade, who once just said "hi" to each other every Sunday, now sit with their arms around each other.

"She is a sister now," Sparks said. "That is just the way it goes. You develop a relationship with the person who gives you life. If it wasn't for them, you'd be dead or having a life of dialysis. It makes you feel real good about where you go to church."

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com