Man gets life-saving gift from acquaintance

Harrisburg

Updated: 3/29/2019 

Now for an update to a story we’ve been following for eight months. In August 2018, we told you about a York County father who needs a kidney to survive. Fast-forward to March 2019. We introduced you to the woman who donated her kidney on his behalf. Instead, her kidney ended up in Indiana. What happened? 

The program is called a paired kidney exchange. TJ Bradley has been waiting for this logistical puzzle to piece together for more than two years. He has advanced kidney disease. 

We were with him in pre-op just moments before he had surgery for his new kidney.

I’m excited, Rebecca Shannon said, standing by his side. She’s a living kidney donor.

I only have one kidney now. Somebody else has the other one, Shannon said.

Years ago, TJ and Shannon went to Susquehannock High School together but barely knew each other. After seeing our story about TJ needing a donor, Rebecca had surgery to help him. 

But her kidneys are a little too small, said TJ. “She was not able to donate directly to me. 

They’re in a paired kidney exchange. TJ and Rebecca exchanged kidneys with another donor and recipient. Rebecca’s kidney went to Indiana and TJ’s kidney was flown in from Georgia. (We found out after the story aired that the original information we were given needed to be updated. It didn’t work out with the Georgia donor, so TJ’s new kidney ended up coming from a donor in Philadelphia)

A puzzle of planes, trains and GPS trackers. From donors that couldn’t give to TJ’s family getting the flu, it hasn’t been easy.

I could die on the table, TJ said while in a hospital bed awaiting surgery. You know, [that would mean I wound’t] be there for my kids. That makes it tough.

No matter how tough it is, TJ  knows he has to do it. But even after surgery, the worry will continue. TJ’s body has to accept the new organ and he has to take medication for the rest of his life. Assuming all goes well, the kidney will only last TJ to his mid-50s. 

He already has someone who is trying to prep their body to donate when that time comes: his wife Rachel. That future would not have been possible without TJ receiving a healthy kidney now.

TJ said he and his family aren’t just friends with Rebecca, she’s part of the family now.

You know, sometimes I wonder if God is there, he said, “then I realize with Rebecca helping me like this, he is there because there’s someone as great as her to do this for me.

Thank you seems so underwhelming, but thank you, Rebecca,” Rachel said.

TJ, going in for a big hug with Rebecca, said I love you and it’s amazing that you did this. I’m so happy. 

TJ’s surgery was last week. He’s home now and doing fine.

If you want to become a living donor, you have to be 18 years old and in good health, both physically and mentally. Doctors do extensive tests because they want to make sure your body will have no issue functioning with one kidney.

For more information on becoming a living kidney donor, click here

The Bradley family is helping raise awareness for the need for more living donors. They created shirts that read Change the ending to someone’sones story. A portion of the shirt proceeds will help the Bradley family with medical expenses. For more information about that, click here

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Updated 3/20/2019

Here’s an update to a story we first told you about seven months ago. In August 2018, we told you the story of TJ Bradley, a York County father who needed a kidney transplant to survive. 

TJ is undergoing that surgery Tuesday thanks to an old acquaintance who wanted to help. Christine McLarty caught up with the donor moments before her surgery to find out why she’s doing it. 

You wouldn’t have guessed it from all the laughing in her hospital room, but when we went to chat with 34-year-old Rebecca Shannon she was just minutes from surgery.

The surgery isn’t even going to really help her. I’m completely at peace about it exclaimed Rebecca., because she’s helping someone. 

I have stage 5 kidney disease, said TJ standing in his home surrounded by his children’s toys. I try as best I can to play with the kids but sometimes I’m so exhausted.

When we brought you the York County family man’s story seven months ago we didn’t know is that Rebecca was going to see it and want to help. She and TJ were teenage acquaintances at Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Pa. 

I remember him being the outgoing, funny guy, said Rebecca from her hospital bed. When I saw he was in need [of a kidney] I not only wanted to do it for TJ but… Her words stopped and tears began to flow down her face. I wanted to do it for his kids. I have the most incredible dad and to me, TJ exemplifies how great of a dad he is. I want his kids to have that. 

However, Rebecca’s kidney isn’t a perfect match with TJ’s. Luckily, there is a matched pairing program where her kidney can be donated to someone else on TJ’s behalf and he will then receive a kidney that fits his body better. 

Rebecca, a wife and mother of two, has a family of her own. Bravery doesn’t stop her family from worrying. After months of tests, the doctors say it’s time. Rebecca has one last thing to say before being rolled into the operating room. Know that you could somebody’s hero, somebody’s superhero! It just takes doing something that somebody wouldn’t typically do

Not all superheroes wear capes, Rebecca Shannon wears a hospital gown. 

Rebecca’s surgery was three weeks ago. She made a full recovery and was back to work within 10 days. TJ’s surgery happens Tuesday. We’ll be there.

To help donate to TJ’s recover fund click here

To watch the first story about TJ needing a kidney donor, watch below. This aired in August 2018.

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