More phone updates, "I could donates," and wild looks followed over the months.
But Margie's puzzled glances began to show a little less disbelief. She agreed to ask Karen what I needed to do to be tested.
"Well, first he has to have O-positive blood," Karen said.
End of story, Margie thought.
"O-positive," I said the next day, when I pulled out my blood-type card.
More phone calls.
A lab kit was shipped from Cleveland. Twelve test-tube-size vials of my blood were drawn, then air-expressed to Cleveland.
Days passed. A week. Two weeks. Three.
That's when I posted my prayer request on the chapel bulletin board.
I'm an ordinary man, OK?
If I'm driving in traffic and somebody cuts me off, I'm liable to cuss.
I go to church, yes. I say my prayers. I try to do my duty as a human being and as a person of faith.
If you had asked me a year ago whether the prayers of an ordinary man like me are answered, I probably would have told you yes. But there was always a small part of me looking for tangible proof.
Today, I will tell you yes. Definitely.
At 2 a.m., my prayer shift was over, and I went home to bed.
Shortly after 9 a.m. that morning, a nurse from Cleveland was on the phone.
"Exactly how are you related to Charlie?" she asked.
The blood test matched well enough that we might have been brothers.
In tests of six antigens -- proteins that might stimulate the immune system to reject a donor organ -- Charlie's brother Terrence was a zero match. His sister Helen matched in three, but could not be considered because of other health concerns. Karen and I both matched in three.
But if Karen were the donor, who would care for Charlie and Karen during recovery? And why put their sons in harm's way by having two parents with one kidney?
I knew what should be done.
I headed to church. But this time I went during the middle of the week, seeking help, at St. Peter's in Lexington.
And I swear Rev. Dan Noll's reading of the gospel that day was meant for me.
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul," Jesus tells his apostles in Matthew 10:28. "Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."
A great calm fell over me.
It was January before everyone agreed. Charlie told me the "positive energy" I was feeling helped convince him and Karen. I would be the one.
Time for me to get nervous again. Not about losing a body part, but about telling my mother.
The youngest of eight children, I would never do anything to cause Mom distress if I could avoid it. I just didn't know how she would react to this news.
I did know I had to do it in person.
As I neared the interstate, a traffic light turned red. A van with a lone bumper sticker pulled up in the next lane.
The bumper sticker said: "Hope. Padre Pio."
Nerves were calmed.
And my mother was totally supportive.
Later, at the hospital, she would wear a silver choker, adorned by a peacock. "I'm proud as a peacock," she would tell Karen.
The transplant was to take place at University Hospitals of Cleveland -- but first I'd have to pass several tests.
In February, it was a psychological evaluation, lab work, chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram.
Two weeks later came an IVP -- intravenous pyelogram -- an anatomical study of the kidneys.
A week later, March 21, came an arteriogram, a study of the veins and arteries of the kidneys. Some people have more than one artery to the kidneys, making transplantation impractical.
I had one artery to each.
As Charlie drove me to his home that night, Karen called on the car phone. "We have a kidney," he told her. "Thumbs up!"
On March 23, a Thursday, Charlie, Karen and I met with Dr. James A. Shulak, head of the transplant team.
I asked him how unusual it was for me to be the match Charlie had been waiting for.
"It's very unlikely when it happens to be a friend," he said.
I had expected that neither a gospel nor even a spiritual bouquet would sustain me in the dark hours of March 28, the day of surgery. I expected terror.
I was wrong.
After checking in at 6 a.m., Charlie and I were in "pre-op" by 7, dressed in goofy-but-practical gowns.
By 7:15, anesthesia was making its way through my body from an intravenous drip in my hand. I hung on to my senses long enough to flash "thumbs up" to Margie and Karen.
My left side was cut open, just below the ribs. The incision was not quite eight inches long.
Dr. David Seaman, assisted by Shulak, removed my left kidney, about the size of a fist, during an operation that lasted more than three hours.
Shulak took my kidney to an adjoining operating room and prepared it for implantation into Charlie's left front side. His diseased kidneys would remain in place.
Before Charlie's surgery began, though, Shulak was called back to the first operating room.
A clamp had slipped off an artery. I was losing blood. Shulak remembers such a thing happening only once in the last six or seven years.
Now, my surgery was inching closer to four hours than three. But the problem was soon fixed, and Shulak began to work his magic on Charlie.
Doctors told our wives that everyone was fine and the kidney was ... working.
I found it difficult to sleep while lying flat because of nasal congestion. And when I did sleep, I awoke with splitting headaches.
But I caught an unexpected break because the surgery di not require removal of a rib, as is the norm. I was sitting in a chair by Thursday, on my feet by Friday, slowly roaming halls by Saturday, and discharged from the hospital Sunday.
Charlie was placed on an anti-rejection drug "cocktail" immediately after surgery.
The initial cocktail recipe made him feel awful for several days. A new formula had him back on track by Sunday.
On Monday, the sixth day after surgery, he experienced initial signs of rejection. And there was a suspected leak, we learned, between his bladder and his new kidney.
Steroids helped to fight off rejection, and the suspected leak turned out to be a false alarm.
By Tuesday, Charlie was much improved. By Thursday, he was released from the hospital.
You'll never feel alone if you take part in a transplant.
Charlie and Karen were flooded with support, but Margie and I were, too. Family, friends, and neighbors too numerous to single out offered visits, cards, phone calls, gifts, and prayers. And lots of e-mail.
The NBC television affiliate in Cleveland devoted 2 1/2 minutes of an 11 p.m. newscast to tell our story.
On the day before our return to Kentucky, as I sat with Margie in the hospital atrium, a woman paced past our lunch table five, maybe six times. Finally, she worked up the courage to approach.
"I saw you on TV," she said. "You did a wonderful thing."
We talked a bit and asked what brought her to the hospital. Tears welled. She said she had breast cancer, and the cancer had spread to her bones.
But she had put that aside to tell us what she was thinking.
"You have a room in heaven."
Kathy Decker, a friend of the Tremonts, recalls meeting me in the hospital. I had just been moved from recovery to my single-patient room
I was still woozy and do not recall the conversation, but Kathy swears it's true.
"Too bad you guys couldn't get a double room," she said. "Then you could ask Charlie how your kidney's doing."
I replied, "It's not my kidney anymore. It's Charlie's."
"Charlie's prognosis is that he has a 90 percent chance of this kidney working a year," Shulak said, "probably a 70 to 80 percent chance for five years, and probably close to 70 percent chance for a 10-year survival of the kidney.
"At that point onward, nobody knows for sure. But if he gets out to 10 years, it's probably not going to fail."
One symptom of his kidney disease is already improved. An overactive parathyroid had produced unwanted phosphorous that collected in his fingers and left them crooked.
Within days of his surgery, the phosphorous had dissipated. He could extend his fingers straight.
The red has left his eyes and returned to his skin color.
His appetite is back, his energy on full throttle, his weight up 5 pounds.
In a way, he is born again.
In a way, I am too.