Story of fate, faith and friendship

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Of all the stories this newspaper published over the course of 2018, one told a tale of how one man’s faith led to a new lease on life.

As I began my annual assignment of choosing the top stories we published month-by-month in 2018, I did not select the one I authored (with a follow-up penned by Mike Grizzard of the Pitt County Post) regarding Brandon Hodges.

Hodges, a Como native and former standout baseball player at Hertford County High School where he later came back to coach before moving to Greenville, had been suffering from IgA nephritis since the age of 14. He survived through periodic dialysis, but only a kidney transplant could allow him to live somewhat of a normal life.

IgA refers to the antibody molecule. This is a normal substance present in all of us that helps to fight infections in the throat, airways, and intestine. In IgA nephritis, the antibody gets deposited in an abnormal way in the filter units of the kidneys. The build-up of this material damages the filtering units, allowing protein and blood to leak into the urine. Both kidneys are equally affected by this condition, one that worsens with age.

Healthy kidneys function at between 80 and 100 percent. Earlier in 2018, those vital organs were operating at between 12 to 16 percent for Hodges, meaning he was at Stage 4, bordering on Stage 5, with this disease.

When the story first broke in November of 2017 of the search for a kidney donor, Duke University Hospital (where Brandon was expecting to have the life-saving surgery) was flooded with calls from people who volunteered to be screened to see if they were a possible match.

Everything seemed to be going like clockwork….that is until the effort hit a major snag when it was discovered that Duke would not bill the potential donor’s (medical) insurance in order for Brandon’s insurance to take it over.

“I’m not upset with Duke because of that, it’s just their policy,” Hodges said at the time.

As is so typical of Brandon, he put the situation into the hands of God. You see, Brandon Hodges is one of the most faithful Christians I’ve ever met. That faith reaped reward.

Two days into 2018, Brandon was notified that the organ transplant team at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville would take over his case and the medical insurance issue experienced at Duke would be taken care of.

Once again, the calls poured in. By late January, the Vidant transplant team had screened the potential donors and located a perfect match.

As it turned out, that match came in the form of a person Brandon already knew – Mike Ward, a friend for the past 15 years. However, Ward never knew – up until the stories broke earlier this year about Brandon’s search for a life-saving medical procedure – that his friend was suffering from any type of ailment.

“I read it (on Facebook), and it blew me away,” Ward said. “After reading it, that was the moment I knew that God placed in my heart, ‘Mike, you’ve got to do this. You’re a match.’”

Hodges and Ward are the same age, and same build (height and weight). Both men have identical blood types (A-positive).

On Feb. 6, the two walked through the doors of Vidant Medical Center for a procedure that changed the course of both of their lives.

What’s so great about this heart-warming story is that it didn’t end on Feb. 6.

After recovery – and eventually returning to their respective jobs – the two men have been making the rounds at churches throughout eastern ‘Carolina (including a few in the Roanoke-Chowan area) where they have shared their amazing testimony. In the process they have led others to Christ.

Fate, faith and friendship brought these two men together….and they are using those things to turn others into believers of the power from on high.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal