ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. – Karen Bryce endured kidney transplant surgery once – and it seemed that was enough for her.
But pain was a small price to pay for saving her father’s life. Though he survived only a short time, Bryce never regretted being a donor – not even when she became ill several years later and was stunned to learn why:
Her remaining kidney was failing. Now she needed to be rescued.
That’s when she agreed to a transplant. Her kidney came courtesy of a man named Jim. He was in his late 50s – that was all she knew at first. It was hard to grasp that someone she’d never met was making this sacrifice.
Her angel turned out to be more: Jim Falsey was a Roman Catholic priest, skydiver and pilot who’d navigated the wilds of Alaska. A spitfire just like her father.
He also happened to be part of an extraordinarily generous family: They jokingly call themselves “the one kidney club.”
Five members have donated kidneys, and a sixth waits in the wings.
There’s Tom Falsey, unofficial president, a Kansas engineer who initially wanted to help a desperately ill nephew. When that didn’t work out, he decided to find someone else who could use a healthy kidney.
A stranger was just fine with him – in this case, an Omaha teen who’d survived cancer as a child.
There’s Joyce Falsey, Tom’s wife, who decided she, too, had something she could live without. She also donated to a stranger.
Then there’s Father Jim, a parachuting preacher who tends to his flock of 235 families in the town of Au Gres. He gave a piece of himself to Bryce.
While there are thousands of living kidney donors each year, almost all give to family, friends or acquaintances.
The three Falseys are among a tiny fraction – 285 of 68,577 – who have donated anonymously, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Later this month, Bryce will visit Jim Falsey. The two will be interviewed for a documentary. When they get together, she says, it’s like a family reunion.
“I think of Jim every single day of my life,” she says. “I know he’s the reason I’m alive and kicking.”
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