Atlanta Journal Constitution Publishes Article About the Kidney Transplant Behind Upcoming Film, "End the Wait"

An image of the frontpage Atlanta Journal Constitution's Inspire Atlanta, featuring an article titled, "Strangers are 'miraculous match' for transplant."

End the Wait is in the News!

The Atlanta Journal Constitution published an article today about the inspirational true story of Russell Dallas and Randy Simpkins, the basis of the upcoming film “End the Wait.” AJC reporter Nancy Badertscher interviewed Russel and Lucretia Dallas, Randy Simpkins and Piedmont Hospital transplant surgeon Dr. Giri Vedula for the piece. Included in the article are photos of Randy and Russell on the day after the transplant and another of the two having a friendly chat recently.
The article is a powerful reminder of why “End the Wait” exists: the only way Russell could be with his family today is because Randy felt divinely led to share one of his kidneys with him. As Randy is quoted in the story: “It just impacted me so powerfully to give somebody this gift of life. It is just incredible to give and serve. When we actually do that with the right heart, we are blessed beyond measure.”
The mission of End the Wait is to make a film that shows the need and ease of kidney donation and will inspire enough people to give and serve like Randy did so that the transplant waitlist is wiped out — saving 102,000 lives in the process.
For those with an AJC subscription, the article can be found here.
For those who don’t have an AJC subscription, you can read the article below.

Strangers are ‘ miraculous match’ for transplant

By Nancy Badertscher for the AJC

Pastor Randy Simpkins last year did what many might consider the unthinkable: he offered a kidney to a man he’d never met.

And not just to any man. But one with diabetes, complications from a blood transfusion, and Stage 5 kidney failure.

“The odds of finding a match were very, very small – incredibly small, “ said Dr. Giri Vedula, a transplant surgeon at Piedmont Hospital Atlanta. “We just thought we’d take a shot and see if it worked out.”

When the tests were completed, the transplant team was “ecstatic.” The kidneys of Simpkins and Russell Dallas were dubbed a “miraculous match,” Vedula said.

Chance encounter

Had it not been for a twist of fate, or what some call divine intervention, Simpkins, a resident of Carrollton, would never had known that Dallas, a businessman from nearby Douglasville, needed a kidney or that his wife was desperately praying for an donor organ.

Simpkins wasn’t even supposed to be in Georgia. He had signed on as a chaplain to hikers on the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. But 100 miles up the trail, blizzard-like conditions forced everyone to turn back.

That cleared Simpkins’ schedule to speak at a Christian women’s retreat, “The Walk to Emmaus,” in March of 2022. He woke up early on Day 2 of the retreat and went to the kitchen for coffee. He overheard Dallas’ distraught wife telling her daughter to pray for an “O-positive donor” and worrying about asking someone to give up a body part.

“I just happened to be there, and this thought just rushed through me: ‘You haven’t followed through with so many things in your life,” Simpkins said. “I just felt that was what God was telling me.” 

He poked his head around the corner and said: “I’d be glad to be tested.”

Dallas’ wife, Lucretia, responded: “Who are you?”

Vedula said past blood transfusions had made the search for a donor “more challenging” and the likelihood of Russell Dallas finding a suitable match “near zero.”

But once the two men were declared a “miracle match,” they each worked to prepare themselves, talking regularly on the phone but still not meeting in person.

One day, Russell Dallas’ phone rang. “What are you doing Sept. 30? I’m going to be at Piedmont, and I’m going to get rid of a kidney if you want to have it,” Simpkins said. “He just started crying and saying: ‘Hallelujia.’”

They met only for only the second time the day after Vedula performed the transplant surgery. The transplant team celebrated.

“We celebrate every transplant, especially the nearly impossible to transplant,” he said. “They are both spectacular individuals. And to make this happen for both of them is truly a blessing for us.”

‘Give and serve’

Simpkins has had a passion for helping others since 2000. That was when friends and strangers showed up at his home in Carrollton to search for his lost 2-year-old son, Joe. The boy was found safe after an eight-hour search involving about 400 area residents, dozens of police officers and media helicopters.

But the entire experience was a “light-switch moment for me,” Simpkins said. He realized he had become consumed by his work at the expense of his family, faith and community.

Simpkins, who owns his own utility contracting company, now works alongside his three sons. He went into the ministry and became pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Bowdon about eight years ago. He also served two terms on the Carroll County Commission, saying he could never repay the community for helping to find Joe.

A decade after the search, the movie “The Way Home,” starring Dean Cain, chronicled that terrifying and life-changing day for Simpkins, and his wife, Christal.

Today, Simpkins, 54, is waiting to see a new screenplay written for another movie. It will tell the story of the transplant and is expected to also star Cain.

Simpkins hopes the movie and a nonprofit he is starting, called End the Wait Foundation, can raise awareness about the ease of the transplant process and find help donors for the 102,000 Americans who are on kidney transplant waiting lists.

“It just impacted me so powerfully to give somebody this gift of life,” Simpkins said. “It is just incredible to give and serve. When we actually do that with the right heart, we are blessed beyond measure.”

Russell Dallas, 58, no longer spends three days a week in dialysis. He’s at the gym, sometimes twice a day, hoping to soon be able to return to his small business.

He said that he was near death when his family rushed him to the hospital in May of 2021 and that, without the transplant, he didn’t believe he would make it another year. Now he is excited about the possibility he could live another 10 or 15 years.

He said it’s hard to express what he feels for Simpkins.

“I have never met anybody like him,” Dallas said. “I could say he’s like a brother. But I think it’s more than that. I mean, gosh – it’s hard to explain.”

Said Lucretia Dallas: “He’s the kind of man who, when God speaks to him, he listens.”

Be a Part of the Story

Support the “End the Wait” film—a project aimed at raising awareness for the 100,000 individuals awaiting a life-saving kidney donation.

Be a Part of the Story

Support the “End the Wait” film—a project aimed at raising awareness for the 100,000 individuals awaiting a life-saving kidney donation.

Inspiring Kidney Donation Through Film