Charlie Ball and Kenneth Walker who went to school together more than 50 years ago and now live on opposite coasts never anticipated that one would save the others life in a remarkable way.
The two men are alumni of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. and graduated in 1969, They never really spoke while they were in school. But when Walker sent out a plea last year to his old classmates asking for a kidney, Ball recognized and responded to him, that if he was a match, he would donate his kidney.
“Understandably, I think no one I’ve spoken to would do this,” Ball told CNN from the hospital after the surgery. “It depends on the person, I guess.”
Walker worked as a bureau chief for National Public Radio in South Africa it was there he was misdiagnosed by doctors and given incorrect treatment. So much so that he returned to the US about 18 months ago, knowing he would die if he didn’t find a kidney.
He put his name down on every wait list. But one of the high school friends he maintained contact with had a different idea.
“One of [our] other classmates said ‘Well, did you check with the school?’” Ball told CNN.
Walker obtained an e-mail list from the school, and he sent out a call for help in November. The subject line of the message was, simply, “A request for life.”
“It is nearly impossible for me to come to terms with what I must ask of you, and that is your help in finding a kidney donor so that I can have a chance to improve my quality of life — and perhaps even to extend it beyond the expected span of a dialysis patient,” Walker wrote.
Walker explained to the group how difficult it is to get a viable kidney for transplant and assured them that he understood if no one was able to grant his request, because at least he had raised awareness for kidney disorders anyway.
“Consider being an organ donor after death and also, help me by sharing my story with everyone you know. At the very least, I want to bring awareness to kidney disease and living donation,” he wrote.
“I am hopeful my efforts will help me receive a kidney sooner and encourage others to consider helping the many people on the wait list.”
However, Less than 15 minutes later, Ball responded.
“I will call the hospital in the a.m.,” he wrote. “I pray that you get what you need.”
The response blew Walker away.
“Immediately, I get this response from Charlie and you’re suspicious. What’s wrong with this guy?” Walker said. He said that Ball’s decision to help a black man was a breath of fresh air in a political environment that he says has too much racial tension.
Normally people over the age of 60 can not be donors but due to Ball’s peak physical condition, he was able to donate, He had many tests done in California before even flying to DC to meet with Walker.
“I responded and said, ‘well I’ll just take the tests and if it goes well I’ll end up in my current condition,” Ball said. “I passed all the tests.”
Ball’s family was concerned before the surgery, but recognized that his passion for volunteer work was just one of the factors that helped him make the decision. Ball has said for years, he’s looked to a quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: “It is in giving that we receive.”
Now, the men are focused on recovery. They are both doing well and are looking forward to leaving the hospital this week.