“I found out February 14, 2019, that my old police beat partner was a 100% match 6 out of 6 requirements to be my donor, a match that is only seen often in siblings. This is my story.
Here at the age of 41, I’m living with a hereditary disease called polycystic kidney disease (PKD) that I inherited from my late mother. My mom migrated to the United States from Egypt during the 6-day war in 1967. She grew up in an orphanage, so she had no knowledge of her medical history let alone her actual birth date. My mom became a US citizen and ended up meeting my father at church in Washington DC and married him years later. My dad passed away from colon cancer at 38 years old, I was 2 ½ years old.
As an only child, and with little blood relatives – I was really what you call a mama’s boy. I lived, and would’ve died, for my mother. In my late teens and early 20’s my mom was facing extremely high blood pressure readings. I recall going to the urgent care at what was Group Health back in the day, and sitting with my mom as her blood pressure readings were 200+/100+. It was one of those things where they gave medicine, got the numbers down a bit and had her follow-up with her doctor. It wasn’t until early 2000’s that we found out that she had polycystic kidney disease and needed dialysis to survive.
I was the first person to go in for testing to see if I was a match for my mom, I was so excited I could give a piece of my body to help keep her alive. When I went through my testing, I was 99% complete and everything looked like it was going to be a match. My mom had B+ blood type, I am O (universal donor) and overall healthy at the time. I remember getting a call on the home phone saying I too had polycystic kidney disease so I couldn’t donate my kidney to her. My mom and I both had our teary moment, it was so devasting for me knowing I couldn’t help and for her now living with the unknown while being on ‘the list’ for a cadaver kidney.
For the next few years, I watched my mom do peritoneal dialysis (dialysis at home), 3 times a day – and what most amazed me — one of those times was late at night, every single night! In 2005 on Mother’s Day my mom’s phone rang. It was Washington Hospital Center calling saying they had 2 kidneys that were a perfect match for her – but she was the 3rd person if for some chance the #1 and #2 people couldn’t come in, were unavailable or otherwise she would need to come in ASAP. We waited for HOURS and what seemed like FOREVER to get a call back. I remember phoning back around 8 or 9 p.m. and asking what was going on, and they gave us an update that the first two people had arrived to the hospital and she would be on the list for another transplant very soon. Just a few months later, my mom got another call and did get a kidney!
In 2002, I became a deputy sheriff in Montgomery County, later working for other departments before joining Montgomery County Police in 2007. It was in my lateral police class that I met Megan Ambrose who was in rookie school. Both classes tend to merge together at times when it comes to physical training, defensive tactics and other training. My training was 8 weeks long, Megan’s was 6 months long. We did see each other almost on a daily basis, and although our conversation wasn’t really much more than a normal chit chat – we did know each other, and had a good friendship while at the academy.
After I finished my program, I moved around to a couple different shifts, and ended up on Shift 2 Ida which patrols in the Burtonsville area of Montgomery County. Megan moved from the midnight shift to 2 Ida and we became beat partners, where we would run calls together over a 10-hour period every day. Megan and I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly together on the job. We used to run the calls that would make us laugh for days, and the most serious calls that would make us glad to make it home safe at night. She is what I called my work wife, the most important thing is each of us had our backs, and our #1 goal was to go home safe every single night.
It’s important to mention our supervisor was Sergeant Andy Kranking, who we managed to drive up the walls with the amount of paperwork and trouble we would generate for him. Andy was a man of faith, he was a gentleman who would leave work daily to go feed his aging parents. His mom who had a massive stroke, had no mobility, he would go feed her and make sure she was well taken care of. Andy would go to mass every single day, and on Sunday’s even if we were working, he would attend Sunday mass with his radio turned down just enough to hear what was going on outside. Sadly Andy passed away in 2017, just one week after my mother passed away.
Why do I bring up Andy? Because it is without a doubt he is in heaven right now pulling some strings, and no doubt my mom is sitting there with him. You see, Megan and I would drive Andy INSANE during our work days! We recall pulling over 2 Metro buses and 1 charter bus all at the same time for violations and 70 people calling 911 and the station to complain simultaneously. Andy got on the radio ‘have 2 Ida 14 and 2 Ida 23 call me at the station.’ We responded to give us 5 minutes. His next transmission was, ‘Have them both respond to the station right now!’ We responded we would be there when we were clear. We had a love hate relationship with Sarge, but he knows we were out there giving the job a big hustle and he loved our hearts for it.
In 2010, Megan and I were both off one day. I was called in for overtime, and the sergeant asked if anyone else would want to come in – I offered up Megan and she came in. It was that day Megan was involved in a serious motor vehicle collision, rushing to back myself and other officers up on a traffic stop of burglary suspects who were possibly armed. Megan collided with another vehicle and into a power pole. This accident would send her to Baltimore Shock Trauma, and I was there to ride on the helicopter with her. Megan was seriously injured, it was a frightening experience for the both of us – and I ended up making notification to her husband Chris. In 2012, Megan ended up retiring from the police job from her injuries, and I retired in 2016 due to my kidney disease and another medical condition that I have.
Over the past few years my function had started to decline, as my kidneys were getting bigger with the cysts covering it. In the past year, I went from 25% function to 13% and that is when my wife Jessica told me I needed to put an all-call out. I own a thriving real estate company and have three young boys ages 5, 4 and 3 – I didn’t need anything to slow me or my progress in life down. My wife made a statement that sits with me today. ‘If you’re not here with us 3 months from now, it doesn’t matter how successful you are in your business.’ Already knowing my wife wasn’t a match for me, I went to social media to talk to my network.
Megan was one of 31 people who stepped up to fill out the appropriate paperwork to see if they were a match. She was the first of two people in my network to go to Georgetown University for testing. As I found out a few days ago for the first time, she knew since she went in for testing in early January that she was a perfect match for me! I tried to probe my transplant coordinator for more information on my potential donors, and they provided little to no information citing HIPPA. I knew from the beginning the majority of information I was going to get, was going to be directly from anyone donor themselves.
At the end of January or early February Megan asked if my wife Jessica and I could come down and meet with her and her husband Chris. Megan has two young girls, and we have three young boys so scheduling was tough. It turned out that Valentine’s Day worked for all of us, which ironically happened to be National Donor Day. Jessica and I sat on the sofa while Chris was sitting on the couch in front of us along with Megan. We chatted with them for a good 30-45 minutes about life and politics, but in the back of both my wife and my mind was wondering what the conversation was about to take place regarding the potential kidney transplant.
The entire drive down to Megan’s house, we were rehashing what if’s. What if Megan got cold feet, what if Megan is being disqualified, what if she couldn’t or was unable or unwilling to do it, what if, what if what if. Then the note! Megan silently grasped and handed me the green letter she had written just prior to the arrival. It said, ‘So I heard urine (sense pun her humor) need of a kidney.’ My immediate thought was YEAH! I opened it and it read ‘Want Mine?’
Before I even read down further, the thoughts were running through my mind – what if she is backing out? And then it read, ‘Turns out we are a perfect match… not only on the job but in blood and organs too. You always had my back on the road and off, now you can have my kidney.’
At this moment it was WOW, and the WOW was caught exactly how I still feel about it. I mean WOW someone wants to give me THEIR kidney? ‘I am honored to be able to give you the gift of life. PS, just take care of my sh*t please.’ ‘Surgery May 14, Love Megan.’
Seriously the tears of joy, relief, happiness, just everything… the stress of the search, the stress of the unknown just all left my mind at that moment and I was overcome with the love of this PRICELESS gift.
I knew after the fact that Megan did a lot of research, soul searching, and chatting with past donors. Megan holds the special gift of life, that I hope will inspire many people reading to have the courage, empathy and compassion to share their spare with someone. 1 in 500 people suffer from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), 600,000 Americans and 12.5+ million worldwide. 50% of patients with PKD will go into kidney failure before the age of 50. PKD is a genetic disease. The average kidney weighs roughly 0.25 LBS, a cyst-filled kidney can weigh as much as 30 LBS each.
Approximately 13 people die everyday waiting for a kidney transplant, and approximately 3,000 people enter ‘the list’ for a donor every month. In the United States, Medicare covers 100% of the costs relating to the transplant, and 100% of the donor’s expenses for any future issues arising from the transplant. A donor who runs into kidney issues in the future, becomes first priority for a transplant in the future.
Thank you for the gift of life Megan, I love you, I love your family, and my family and I are forever indebted to yours.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stan Barsch of Middletown, Maryland. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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