Special Photo Stewart Reese Jr. poses for a photograph with his daughter Bernita Reese, just days before she donated her kidney to him.
For 43 years, Bishop Stewart Reese Jr. led Bethesda Cathedral in Decatur. His sermons typically ran about 40 minutes. But when his kidneys started to fail, so did his preaching. Seven minutes was about as long as he could last, he said.
"I didn't have any energy at all," the 74-year-old Newton County resident said.
Today, Reese has a renewed lease on life, thanks to the actions of his daughter, Bernita Reese. The 46-year-old Ellenwood resident donated one of her kidneys to her father in May.
"I just feel like a new man," said Reese, who is home recovering from the operation.
Reese's kidney trouble began shortly after he had a stroke in 2009. Reese sought help from several doctors but they all recommended dialysis, a treatment he refused.
Dialysis seemed risky, said Reese, because he'd seen too many friends undergo dialysis and die.
One doctor administered a drug to Reese in an attempt to revive kidney function but to no avail. By the time Reese met with the doctor again, one kidney had completely shut down and the other functioned at 14 percent.
Bernita Reese accompanied her father and mother, Navoria Reese, to the meeting with the doctor and when she learned the severity of her father's kidney condition, she suggested an idea which took her father by surprise -- she offered her own kidney.
"I was floored, really," Stewart Reese Jr. said.
Bernita Reese said she hadn't really considered the option until the day she sat in the doctor's office with her parents.
"I really didn't know that his kidney was at the failing point that it was. I think the main thing is his refusing dialysis and him saying, 'If I have to go through dialysis, I would rather just give up on life.' That was hard to hear, much less imagine him wanting to give up on life because of a machine," said Bernita Reese.
"I said, 'If that's the case, why don't you take my kidney?'"
Bernita Reese said she didn't hesitate to aid her father, who had sacrificed so much to raise her.
"For me, it's just a gift you give back. You don't even have a choice," said Bernita Reese, who is employed at the DeKalb County Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs.
Father and daughter underwent surgery on May 15 at Emory University Hospital. Doctors released Bernita Reese on May 17 and her father on May 19.
Navoria Reese cared for both her husband of 56 years and her youngest daughter at her home in Newton County the first few weeks after surgery.
"Bernita wanted to see her father live a normal life, and be spared the agony of being hooked up to a machine for countless hours a week," Navoria Reese said. "Her selfless act was simply beyond words and is absolutely amazing."
Reese said he's given his daughter a big hug and thanked her.
"I can't repay her for what she's done but I feel there's nothing too good for her," Mr. Reese said.
On Father's Day, Mr. and Mrs. Reese and their daughter will attend church at Bethany Cathedral, where the Reese's son is now head pastor. Then, the Reese family, which includes two daughters, one son and six grandchildren, will gather at the parents' home in Newton County for a dinner.
"It's just going to be delight seeing everybody," Mr. Reese said.