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PHOENIX, AZ - Nov. 19, 2018 - A retired Pima County Sheriff’s sergeant has a new reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving after receiving a kidney donated by a fellow department employee. Last month, the two underwent surgery for the lifesaving transplant at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.
Jim Anderson, 60, spent 20 years working for the Pima County Sheriff’s department until his health caused him to retire in 2010. Having lived with diabetes for years, Anderson has battled many health issues and recently entered kidney failure, relying on dialysis.
Knowing he needed a transplant to survive, the current Litchfield Park resident became a patient at the transplant center at St. Joseph’s in Phoenix. Because of a national donor organ shortage, Anderson’s best chance would be to find a living donor.
“My first option for a donor was my sister, but she was too old. The second option was my wife, Karen, but her kidney was not large enough to support me. One of my other friends on Facebook asked me how my health was. I mentioned needing a kidney. Chad saw this post and felt compelled to volunteer. If Chad had not been a suitable donor, I had a fourth option in my niece, Kara. I feel truly blessed that so many people came forward for me,” says Anderson.
A current employee in the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Chad Avery, 59, read Anderson’s Facebook post and immediately offered to donate one of his kidneys to his former colleague and longtime friend.
“I’m glad I was able to donate. My friend was in need, and I would do it again if I could,” says Avery who joined the department in 1999.
Staff at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department are not strangers to the organ donation process. In fact, Avery’s donation to Anderson marks the organization’s fourth organ donation from a department member to a department colleague or family member in need.
“Every day, we’re proud of the team we have in Pima County, not only for their outstanding law enforcement work, but also for their incredible character and generosity,” says Pima County Sheriff, Mark Napier.
St. Joseph’s kidney transplant team includes transplant surgeons, nephrologists (physicians specializing in kidney disease), transplant nurse coordinators, social workers, nutritionists, transplant financial coordinators and pharmacists. The hospital also performs liver transplants, and St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute is home to the Valley’s first lung transplant center, which is also one of the busiest in the western United States.
“Everyone at St. Joseph’s was great,” said Anderson. “They treated both of us as if we were their family, and made the situation as comfortable as possible.”
According to UNOS—the organization contracted by the federal government to manage the nation's organ transplant system—there were 17,107 kidney transplants in the United States in 2014, with 11,570 from deceased donors and 5,537 from living donors, like Avery.
“Kidneys are the most-needed transplant organ in the world, and we are proud to have been serving patients in Arizona since 2014,” says Brandi Krushelniski, vice president of transplant services at St. Joseph’s. “Chad’s donation to Jim is an incredible act of kindness, and it is a real pleasure to see them both well and thriving.”
“Our bond is now even greater than the law enforcement brotherhood,” said Anderson who is looking forward to regaining a normal life and enjoying every minute of it with his family and friends. “Thanksgiving will have a new meaning in our house from now on.”
One organ donor can enhance up to 8 lives. Arizona residents can register to be an organ and tissue donor at www.DonateLifeAZ.org.
Sara (Baird) Patterson