News from the Tennessee Valley News

Ronnie Thomas

Inmate, 2 others want to help dad
Daily article spurs 3 to offer kidney to single father

Keith Terry’s name and a six-digit number appear on his shirt.

He wears his heart on his sleeve.

After reading an article in The Daily about a Decatur man needing a kidney, the 42-year-old inmate at Limestone Correctional Facility came forward. Tim Guster Sr., 54, a single father of two young children, has been on a transplant list since September 1999.

Regena Rye of Decatur and Priscilla Sellers of Hartselle also read Guster’s story. None of the three knows Guster, but all reached the same conclusion to offer a kidney, Rye through an e-mail to The Daily and Sellers with a phone call. In the only way he can communicate to the outside, Terry mailed a handwritten letter.

But Guster’s blood type is O positive. Rye is A positive. Sellers didn’t qualify either. She is B positive. Terry, who doesn’t know his blood type, hopes to get a test soon.

“My end-of-sentence date is Nov. 8,” he said, “but I have a parole date Aug. 17.”

He seemed surprised when a reporter requested an interview. The charitable nature of the trio still begs the question: Why would any living person donate an organ to a stranger?

“People in here have asked me that,” said Terry, a 1985 graduate of Austin High School. “The Bible says a true Christian would be willing to lay down his life for a brother. And I’ve seen what children go through when they lose parents.”

His brother, Phillip Terry, died in 1993, and his stepson, Ricky Hogan in 1998. Each left two children. On July 8, 2003, his wife, Jeannie, with an organ donor symbol on her driver license, died in a wreck in Pensacola, Fla., after a drunk driver struck her car head-on.

Terry admits to having been a binge drinker, but in an effort to drown the sorrow, he drank constantly, collecting a string of DUI’s. His 11th one in Decatur put him behind bars. He came to Limestone on April 15.

“The laws are to protect. A drinker in a vehicle is nothing but a loaded cannon,” he said. “I’m in prison, but prison isn’t in me, and, generally, I’m a happy person. I don’t let where I am reflect on how I act. I want to be positive and help other people, like Tim. I want to give back.”

Terry said through all the hardships, a daughter from his first marriage, Danielle, of Decatur, was always a joy.

“God gave me another gift, my granddaughter, Kayden, who is 20 months old,” he said. “Tim spoke about cooking fried chicken for his children. I hope he’ll get to do that for a long time, and that I’ll get the chance to cook fried chicken for Kayden.”

Moved by story

Rye, 35, said Guster’s story touched her.

“I wanted to do something. I wanted to see if I would be a match,” she said.

Rye and her husband, Chris, have three daughters, twins Brittney and Whittney, 14, and Kylie, 7.

“I lost my mom when I was 12, and my father from cancer in March 2006,” she said. “Years before, he had cancer on one of his kidneys. I was going to donate then, but fortunately his other kidney was good.”

She said it was heartbreaking to read that Guster is a single father.

“I couldn’t imagine my three kids living without a parent,” Rye said. “I am an organ donor. But why wait if there is a person in need today?”

Hartselle High grad

Sellers, 20, a 2005 graduate of Hartselle High School, said when she read the story, her heart sank, and she was ready to give a kidney.

“I had already talked to my family, and they were going to be behind me,” she said. She said if she were in the same situation, she hopes someone would help her or a family member.

Her sister, Melissa, 17, a senior at Hartselle High, has epilepsy. Four years ago while blow drying her hair, she had a seizure. The dryer continued to run for several minutes, severely burning her hand and leg. She has had surgeries.

“During the past year, I’ve started having seizures,” Priscilla Sellers said. “We don’t know what it’s caused from yet. I go in for testing July 26 at UAB.”

On June 15 after eight years of waiting, Guster had a chance to receive a kidney when a friend, Jon Abbott, died. His wife asked that Guster receive a kidney but earlier tests revealed he had a cyst and an enlarged spleen, which had to be treated.

“I had tests a week ago and my doctor told me everything looked good,” Guster said. “They will do a biopsy on my liver Thursday at Decatur General. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Of those willing to be donors, he said, “It is just almost unbelievable that people who don’t know you would do that. Truly amazing. God does work in mysterious ways.”

Meantime, even while confronting her own health problems and with a book in hand about transplant surgery, Sellers said, “Anyone who needs B positive, let me know.”

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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