A kidney transplant reconnects childhood friends
Claudia Smith always knew Belinda Ball would one day need a new kidney. She had no idea that she'd end up being the donor.
Belinda Ball and Claudia Smith last year at Smith’s final check-up
Courtesy Belinda Ball
When we first met Belinda Ball in October 2015, she was fundraising for her upcoming kidney transplant. The longtime artist was painting pet portraits as a way to thank donors.
Ball was born with a congenital horseshoe-shaped kidney that caused various maladies throughout her life and eventually caused renal failure. Her search for a kidney led her to her husband who happened to be a perfect match, but testing deemed the transplant inappropriate. During this time, Ball reconnected with childhood friend Claudia Smith, who took the necessary tests and ended up being a good match. Those pet portraits helped fund that upcoming transplant.
Fast forward a few months to Dec. 21, 2015, when the successful transplant operation took place at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
“She was my best friend growing up and she’s a part of me forever,” Ball says of Smith. “She saved my life. I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for her. I call her my angel.”
Growing up in Tulsa, the two girls were best friends. Smith always knew her friend would eventually need a kidney transplant. She just never knew she would be the donor.
“Growing up, my family went to church, and we had a belief in God that he would hear our prayers, and I just prayed for my friend,” Smith says. “I believed God would help her, and, when the time came, I was able to help her.”
The extensive transplant process included physical and mental health tests, including blood and urine samples, organ compatibility tests and overall health accountability.
Today, Ball’s new kidney is healthy, but a previous condition left her small intestine bloated, which is painful. Smith is healthy and Ball is helping spread the word about living organ donation, which gives the recipient a better chance of survival.
And Ball’s art? It is still helping her financially by funding supplements not covered by insurance. She paints wood pallets in bedlam themes of University of Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State University Cowboys. Find them at facebook.com/simplyposhportraits.
Editor’s note: Reporting by Kristi Eaton