David Kirkpatrick and Jason York were high school classmates though not close friends over a decade ago in tiny Tompkinsville, Ky. Kirkpatrick left the area for college and then dental school, while York stayed in Tompkinsville to work with a friend in a heating-and-cooling systems business. Both eventually married, David to Andrea; Jason to Lori.
The Yorks’ first child, a girl, was stillborn. They later became parents of two other little girls but never forgot the heartbreak of losing their first.
Perhaps that’s one reason Jason York took immediate and personal action when he heard that Saylor Kirkpatrick, the baby daughter of his former classmate, would die if she did not receive a liver transplant. An infant donor had been impossible to find, and her parents’ livers were not suitable either. Saylor needed help from a donor with Type O blood who weighed no more than 115 pounds.
Lori York heard about Saylor’s plight in the break room where she worked and later described the situation to her husband. “You’d be the right size,” she told him. In spite of repeated efforts to gain weight, Jason York weighed only 115 pounds.
“I want to do it,” he told Lori.
He called David Kirkpatrick’s cell phone and left a message saying he wanted to help. Though the Kirkpatricks at first responded that they were hoping an infant donor could be found, Saylor’s condition quickly deteriorated. Doctors told the Kirkpatricks that Saylor would not live through the weekend without a transplant.
Jason York was at work when he got the call. The doctor explained the procedure to him, including risks like infection, hemorrhaging and other complications, some that could result in death. He was resolute, telling his wife, “I’ve had almost 30 good years, but Saylor hasn’t had a chance to live at all.” He was on a plane to Wilmington, Del., where the surgery would take place, within hours.
Complications for York resulted in his needing four units of blood and a respirator to breathe. But his first words the next day after doctors removed the tube were, “How’s Saylor?”
Saylor was doing fine, he learned, and should lead a normal life. For her parents, Jason York is a reminder of people’s goodness. “What Jason did you can’t put into words,” David Kirkpatrick says.
Jason York could never seem to put on the weight he desired, but he did learn to grow an enormous heart, one with enough love to encompass a tiny neighbor miles away with a huge need. As it turns out, Jason York is just the right size.
Size matters in Christian discipleship too, but not in ways we can physically measure. It, too, is a matter of the heart. Love for God and love for others grows a heart of enormous proportions, monitored by faith and expressed in caring actions that expect nothing in return.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.