Professor's Wife Shows Heart, Gives Kidney

By Jenny Dahl

Video Interview with Joe Watson and Craig/Kara Johnson

Professor of Electrical Engineering Joe Watson may sit halfway down a church pew from Kara Johnson, but he certainly didn’t expect her response when his kidney began to fail. 

Three years ago, after numerous visits to the doctor, Joe was directed to a kidney specialist. 

“After several sessions with the doctor, I was informed that I was experiencing kidney failure,” Joe said. “And, while it could be slowed down some, I would soon be reaching ‘end-stage renal failure’ and would then have three choices: transplantation, dialysis or death.” 

Joe and his family began looking into kidney transplant options. Due to his age, he was informed that he would not be considered a candidate for the National Organ Transplant Waiting List. 

“However, I was told that I would be approved for a transplant if I could find a living donor and could arrange for a transplant within about six months,” Joe said. 

None of his family members were donor candidates, but they actively prayed for a solution. Joe asked for prayers and help from his church family at Memorial Road Church of Christ, as well as his campus family at Oklahoma Christian. 

Kara and her husband Craig, an associate professor of mathematics at OC, were moved to respond to the request. 

“I thought, ‘Why not?’ I remember thinking how sad it would be if one Sunday Joe wasn’t there sitting beside Nancy, and how guilty I would feel if I didn’t at least try to help,” Kara said. 

After a worship service at Memorial Road in November, Kara and Craig approached the Watsons with a simple question: “How do we start the process?” 

“Joe looked shocked, and Nancy started crying,” Kara said. “And then I thought there was no way I would ever back out and disappoint them.” 

Craig didn’t have the right blood type to be a a donor match. But after two months of testing, Kara qualified as a donor. The transplant happened in February, and it was a great success. 

“I was totally at peace with the process. I was confident that the Lord would, in fact, bless this event and work through these medical experts to do something that was within his will,” Joe said. “I am an only child, but I have a wonderful sister in the Lord who has given me a greatly improved quality of life.” 

Kara emphasized her conviction that this is “God’s story.” 

“I was truly honored that God allowed me to be a solution,” she said. “This has been his story from the very beginning, and I will continue to trust him to finish it in a way that will glorify him.” 

Summer 2014

View more stories from the Summer 2014 issue of Vision magazine.