‘God has his hand in it from day one and it worked:’ Strongsville priest thanks parishioner for saving his life

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STRONGSVILLE, OHIO - When Father Joe Mamich of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville needed a kidney, he wrote a letter to parishioners explaining his failing health but never imagined a devout member would answer his call.

"A lot of people were concerned a lot of people wondering," said Father Mamich. "I had been sick and I was away because I had a staph infection they had seen me pass out at a mass."

The letter stated how his kidney disease was getting worse.  Father Mamich had been diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's Disease, and said time was running out to find a new kidney.  He told us he had three options, transplant, dialysis or a miracle.

"I'm like I can't believe this is how it's all going to end," said Father Joe Mamich. "That he who walked with me this far, helped me become a priest helped me get through all the studies all of that would not allow me to continue the work he called me for."

Dr. Alvin Wee, the surgical director of the kidney transplant program at the Cleveland Clinic says the condition Father Mamich faced can lead to kidney failure.

"It creates some inflammation and then the cells, now because of the inflammation it goes and destroys the kidney," explained Dr. Wee.

The doctor says he has seen the good that can come from a worrisome prognosis, thanks to kidney donation.

"Some people have what I call a different spirit you know very selfless," said Dr. Wee. "It's indescribable, it's really like when you see it would move you to tears."

Jim Lechko, a devout parishioner at Saint Joseph said he felt a calling to serve. When he read a passage from his bible.

"This is my commandment love one another as I love you," said Lechko quoting scripture. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend."

"I basically put it in the hands of God believed that if it was meant to be it would happen," he continued. "God has his hand in it from day one and it worked."

The perfect match was only a few pews away. Lechko underwent surgery and spent several months recovering but said it was the right decision to make. The two are nearing the fifth anniversary of the transplant in April.

"Father Joe may not be here right now if it wasn't for being able to find a kidney donor," he said.

"God's given us so much," said Father Mamich. "God gave Jim a receptive heart. He heard the needs that I had and he responded."

March is National Kidney Month, March 14th is World Kidney Day. To learn more about organ donation or about how to become a live organ donor click here.

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