During his school years my younger son, Donnie, a talented, spirited kid, was also an athlete with incredible potential. His mother and I had bitterly divorced while he was still very young and, behind all the pain and confusion, I fled town and traveled West until the ocean stopped me. I kept in touch through the family grapevine, and with occasional visits. Meanwhile Donnie’s brother Ronald, 14 months older, became his mentor and took on the role of male head of the family.
Ronald was killed in an auto accident a few weeks after he graduated from high school, and Donnie’s world shattered into a million pieces. As all his contemporaries were seeking scholarships and applying to colleges, Donnie was slipping into the netherworld of drugs, booze and violence. The lost years lasted until he was 40, when he finally stumbled through the magic door of Alcoholics Anonymous and was able to reclaim his spiritual self.
While he was wandering through his nightmare, his best friend was a man a few years older than Donnie, named Mike. They buddied together during those terrible times. Mike later became a local policeman, but maintained his friendship with Donnie. The years had bonded them.
Donnie became active in A.A., did truly rewarding work for the first time in his life and, because of what he’d been through, was able to reach and help a large group of people trying to reclaim their lives. He brought his buddy, Mike, into the program. But, unbeknownst to Donnie, the years had taken a terrible physical toll and his liver was slowly losing its ability to function. It continued deteriorating through the years until Donnie finally hemorrhaged one night, was rushed to the hospital, and was told he only had 10 percent liver function remaining. He was stabilized by one of the new magic drugs that temporarily arrested any further deterioration, and was placed on the transplant list.
At about this time the live liver donor transplant operation was being perfected. Donnie was informed that this might be his most viable alternative if he could find a compatible donor, preferably a family member. Since no one in the family was either able or willing to undergo the procedure, Donnie felt resigned to waiting until the drugs became no longer effective, at which time he’d be placed on the top of the transplant list and hope that a liver would become available within the two weeks he could be kept alive with no liver function at all.
He told all this to his buddy Mike, whose immediate reaction was to offer Donnie his liver for the live donor transplant operation. Donnie told him he had no idea what he would be getting into, even if by a miracle they were compatible, but even after having the seriousness of the operation explained to him Mike insisted on being tested. Knowing that the probability of compatibility was practically nil, Donnie told him that he would accept his offer, mostly to humor his best friend. They began a series of tests that would stretch out over a year. During this time Mike was being constantly informed by both Donnie and the doctors that he could back out at any time and no one would fault him for the decision.
Miracle of miracles, Mike and Donnie are compatible, the tests are complete, and the two of them will be lying side be side during the third week in January at the Lahey Clinic preparing to be joined together for the rest of their lives, in a way neither of them ever dreamed of. Mike will be the oldest donor in the history of the program.
The thought has crossed my mind over and over again that I don’t believe I’ve ever known of a friendship as profound as this one has proven to be. My heart goes out to Donnie’s best buddy Mike, and my prayers will be equally divided for both of them. God bless you, Mike.
“Donnie’s Dad” is an 802 member. Allegro welcomes the opportunity to share his story with our readers, and to make them aware of new life-prolonging medical treatments that offer hope to many people with conditions that, only a few years ago, had few solutions.