A Peel Regional Police officer will donate a kidney to a stranger so his best friend, and fellow officer, can live.
“It was an easy decision. It didn’t require a lot of thought,” Sgt. John Henry told Global News. “It’s just something that you feel and then you want to act on it.”
Henry and Const. Wade Neal have been friends for thirty years.
“We started working at the same quick service restaurant together,” said Henry.
It was Neal who inspired him to become a police officer with Peel Region.
“Wade is actually the reason that I’m doing what I’m doing and I love what I do,” Henry added.
Neal, a husband and father of two from Orangeville, Ont., suffers from polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
PKD causes cysts to grow in the kidneys. The cysts are filled with fluid and iIf they become too big, the kidneys can become damaged, reducing function and leading to kidney failure.
“I had my first kidney removed in April 2018 and it was 13 pounds. I thought, ‘my lord we’ll never top that,'” Neal explained, adding, “And then the second one, which was removed in November 2019, was actually 21 pounds.
“The average person’s kidney weighs 500 grams. So it’s about the size of your fist.”
Neal spends three days a week undergoing dialysis treatment at Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville.
He is in need of a kidney transplant.
“People get into policing … to help others. And invariably, those people are strangers to you. So for me, it’s quite a privilege to be able to help someone that I actually know,” said Henry about his decision to step forward and donate a kidney.
Unfortunately, Henry learned he was not a match for his longtime friend.
However, instead, he will donate his kidney to a stranger.
“I can donate to someone that I don’t know and then someone else can donate to Wade … so that Wade can still get the kidney he needs to continue,” explained Henry.
A paired kidney exchange, or ‘kidney swap,’ occurs when a living kidney donor is incompatible with a recipient, so they exchange kidneys with another donor/recipient pair.
“John has decided to donate a kidney on my behalf, which basically moved me up the list. And they create a chain of up to eight people.. so that everybody gets what they need. It’s done nationally,” said Neal.
“I’ve just recently been put on the list because I’ve cleared all the medical hurdles.. and John also has to pass everything.”
Neal said he hopes to return to policing once he gets a new kidney and recovers.
“Who has been off for two years that wants to go back to work? I am stir crazy!” he said.
For Henry, whose sacrifice goes above and beyond the everyday risks of being a police officer, the gift he is giving his friend is providing him with a sense of fulfillment.
“Police officers help people every single day in a myriad of different ways, and invariably they’re people that they don’t know, but they go out and they do it every day as part of their job. So to have that opportunity to do that for someone that I do know, that is something I very much look forward to,” Henry said.
Neal is grateful for the gift his friend is helping him receive.
“We are in a dangerous profession … and things can happen and sometimes an extra kidney may help him later in life. I don’t know how to thank him. I don’t know what I can do for him.”