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Why Do Bad Things Happen? - Part 6, The Waiting List
Miles McPherson - July 31, 2011

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On June 19, 2009, Marlon entered a hospital room prepared to give away an organ that would keep someone alive. What he didn’t know was that he was about to give the recipient something far greater than that.

Continuing our series “Why Do Bad Things Happen?”, today’s message is the story of a young husband and father and his battle for life.

A few years ago, Marlon Gardinera started noticing aching in his hands and feet. At first, he dismissed the pain as a normal part of aging, but as time went on the pain increased to an unbearable burning ache that often took all the feeling from his extremities, so Marlon finally sought medical advice. A test revealed that Marlon had amyloidosis, a condition in which excess protein is deposited in the tissues or organs, eventually eating away and destroying them.

He was given ten years to live. Further testing revealed that the form of amyloidosis he had was also hereditary, meaning that his sons had a 50% chance of developing the condition also.

Because this protein was being produced in the liver, the doctors considered placing Marlon on a list to receive a transplant. His own liver was healthy, but this transplant was thought to be a way to “reset the clock” on the progression of his illness.

A few months later, a minor sports injury landed Marlon in the hospital, where the doctors discovered that the amyloid protein had reached Marlon’s heart. Now the clock was ticking even faster; if Marlon didn’t receive a liver transplant soon, the proteins might cause congestive heart failure, making him too weak to endure a transplant surgery. At this point, Marlon was told he had less than two years to live.

From the time of his initial diagnoses, Marlon was filled with despair and fear, mostly for his family. Marlon felt he had tried to be faithful servant, to witness, and to follow God to the best of his ability. What had Marlon or his family done to deserve this? Though he had been a Christian for many years, he now turned his back on God and tried to do things on his own. Where he used to pray in morning, he would now wake up and cry. He would watch his children, picturing them without a father. Where would they get the essential lessons of life? Why would they ever love or seek God after this type of tragedy in their lives? As Marlon put it, the spiritual parts of him fell away as he scrambled to plan for the time he had left on earth.

Now racing the clock to be placed on the transplant list at UCLA Medical Center, Marlon underwent a battery of twenty-six tests in two weeks. He was given a pager and was told to never be more than four hours away. It was now time to wait.

Six months passed before Marlon received the call. He was filled with hope, fear, and anxiety as he fought through traffic to get to UCLA. To prepare Marlon’s body for surgery, he was given several drugs to suppress his immune system so that his body would be less likely to fight off the new organ. He waited and waited. After six hours, a nurse came with bad news. The liver was not a match and he was released to go home. Marlon and his wife Tracy were lost. The despair came even deeper than before, as this was one of the most disappointing moments in his life. His hopes had been raised that his struggle might soon be over, but now his hopes were dashed and he felt more helpless than ever.

Not just one time did Marlon get this disappointing news. He drove to LA and back six times, enduring the traffic, nerves, nausea, vomiting from the medicines, terrible IV infiltrations, and worst of all, the fear that his time was running out. Living at the end of a pager for months on end, each time Marlon was turned away, he had to face the possibility that he might never get another call.

One night as Marlon sat alone crying, he considered that he hadn’t talked to God in a very long time. Though he had questioned God, he had chosen to go the road alone, leaning only on family and friends but never on his Savior. He turned to the Lord again and decided to ask God how He wanted Marlon to deal with all of this. Inside, he began to experience transformation.

Although two more times Marlon was called to LA only to be turned away, he was now at peace. He knew that the transplant was in God’s time and according to God’s plan. He was still disappointed, but his anxiety was gone.

Responding to the ninth transplant call, the experience was different. Marlon was instantly rushed to surgery with only minutes to prepare. Not only had they found a match, there was another patient in the same hospital who would receive Marlon’s healthy liver.

Normally, transplant patients remain anonymous to their donors, but God didn’t want it that way for Marlon. As his wife and month were taking a post-surgery orientation class, they began talking with another family and it became clear that their loved one, Richard, was to receive Marlon’s kidney.

The two men formed a quick friendship and stayed in contact. Not too long after receiving the transplants, they both ended up in the hospital at the same time with acute liver rejection. As they talked about their lives, the conversation led to Jesus. “Do you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord?” Marlon asked his new friend. Through tears, Richard confirmed his faith.

Marlon’s friend Richard passed away in January of 2011. Marlon mourned the loss, but knew with certainty at least some of the purpose of his own trials. Having gone to UCLA nine times for a transplant, Marlon knew that his match was found on the ninth try for the purpose of meeting and forming a friendship with Richard, who is now with Jesus. Now walking with God again, Marlon was able to see beyond his own fears and struggles to reach the heart of another.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

This 6-part series aims to answer the age old question of why bad things happen when a loving God is in control. Today's message looks at one man's story of learning to trust in and rely on God in the midst of life's trials.

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