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Marine volunteers as living organ donor, changes colleague’s life

Marine Sgt. Bryan Weber prepares to donate his kidney to a civilian colleague and former Marine, Dave Ford, Feb. 6 at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. Weber, out of a desire to help a fellow Marine, requested to be tested around August 2017 to see if he was a match for Ford. Both work for Blount Island Command in Jacksonville. (Courtesy photo by Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Winkfield)

Story by Staff Sgt. Jayson Price

Marine Corps Installations East    

“I found out in late August (2017) that Dave needed a kidney,” said Sgt. Bryan Weber, 27, fiscal chief, Blount Island Command. “My first thought was, I am blood type O-negative and basically I can donate to almost anyone. So, I went and did the test at Mayo Clinic and they called me around October and let me know I was a match with Mr. Ford and that is when I decided to let him know.”

Ford found a note from Weber on his desk – an evaluation form from the Mayo Clinic with the word “approved” on it.

“I didn’t know what to say,” said Ford. “I’ve been thanking him ever since.”

While on the transplant waitlist, Ford also required peritoneal dialysis. He would use the dialysis machine, which was connected through a tube in his stomach, at night and would disconnect before work the next morning. Occasionally he would require extra treatments at work and would treat himself at his desk.

Given the grueling daily routine he dealt with, It was clearly tough for him not to get emotional about this new twist of fate that would be life-changing.

“One day I was just sitting at my desk and just started crying because my life was getting ready to change back to something more positive,” said Ford. “I was getting ready to get freedom back.”

As the scheduled surgery loomed, Ford said he didn’t want to ask questions that would put any undue pressure on Weber. Instead of asking Weber if he wanted to back out, he specifically chose the words “Are you still okay with this?”

“Every time I would ask him he would say, ‘I’m okay Mr. Ford – I’m still good,’” said Ford. “You know, I was cheerful and he was cheerful … he’s a good man.”

The transplant occurred at the Mayo Clinic Feb. 9. Although Ford experienced complications days after the surgery, he complimented the nursing staff and said he is currently doing okay.

Both Ford and Weber said they want others to know that while most donations occur after a donor has died, some organs and tissue can be donated while a donor is alive. Referred to as a “living donation,” the government has sponsored a website where people can learn about organ donation and transplantation at www.organdonor.gov.

“As far as being an actual donor, you’d be surprised; there’s not too much to it,” said Weber. “There’s just the recovery process; then you basically go back to normal.”

“The command, my church, family and friends … they have been so supportive,” said Ford as his phone began to buzz at his side. “Even as we speak, people text me and say, ‘We need you to get back to work … we miss you.’

“In today’s trying times with all the craziness going on, here’s a ray of sunshine … here’s a light,” he said.

“As Marines, we always look out for each other, past or present, we are a brotherhood,” said Weber. “I just wanted to do my part for him.”

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