Jamie Bradfield turns 48 today, a week and a day after donating one of his kidneys to Thomas Jones.
Jones, 10, could come home today.
“That would be the best birthday gift in the world,” Bradfield says. “We need to get that little guy home.”
Thomas Jones’ dad, Will, vice president of advancement at LaGrange College, said his son is doing well after the transplant and “has more energy that he has had in a long time.”
“There’s a clarity about him. It’s like the fog has cleared up and we are seeing a Thomas we have never seen before,” Will Jones said. “He’s full of life. When you ask him a question, his responses are quick and clear. His whole body must be feeling better.”
Thomas has been undergoing plasmapheresis since early this week to combat the initial kidney disease that necessitated the transplant. He will continue to travel to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston as an outpatient for at least the next two weeks to get the treatments.
“Our major worry is that the FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, the genetic kidney disease Thomas has) will relapse, and we’re doing everything we can to save the kidney,” Will Jones said.
Jones said Egleston has “a tremendous track record” in treating the disease. The Jones have six children and the family can’t wait to get Thomas home. His sister Grace’s 10th birthday is also today.
“It’s the first step back to a normal routine,” he said. “His siblings miss him.”
Bradfield also is trying to get back to a normal routine after his surgery to donate the kidney. He was overwhelmed with the support from community members who have praised him for his donation. Dozens of children and friends of Bradfield gathered outside Hollis Hand Elementary School last Saturday to wave signs and cheer Bradfield as he made the last turn to his house on his way home from the hospital.
“I was just overwhelmed with the number of people,” he said. “I’m amazed at the time and effort that was put into that.”
Bradfield, the owner of Heritage Construction, is not a man who seeks out the spotlight.
“This is not about me,” he said. “This is between me and God and Thomas. My number one goal is to get him back to being a kid again. God has his hands all over this and I know Thomas is going to come through.”
It was God, and a matching blood type, that initially led Bradfield to be tested to see if he would be a match for Thomas. There was a call out at his church, where his family and the Jones family both attend, that Thomas needed a kidney and anyone with type-O blood should be tested.
Bradfield is O-positive.
“After a while I said to myself ‘What the heck? What are the odds?’ So, I went and had blood drawn and a couple of weeks later I received word that I was a match for Thomas,” Bradfield said in a pre-Christmas message to friends.
There actually was a match for Thomas prior to Bradfield’s results, but that person didn’t pass a second round of testing. When a nurse called Bradfield to ask if he’d be willing to continue he says his world stood still.
“That moment was a culmination of a lot of thoughts,” he says.
Mostly, Bradfield thought about his own 10-year-old, Sam. Sam was Claire and Jamie Bradfield’s second child and was declared “lost” by doctors prior to his birth. Before Claire Bradfield could undergo further medical procedures, Sam reappeared on an ultrasound.
“I don’t care how much science you throw at me,” Jamie Bradfield said. “When you look at the screen and see something like that come back, there is no clearer vision that God gave us our children.”
Knowing Sam got a second chance, Jamie Bradfield wanted to give Thomas one, even though he admits to not even knowing the family that well.
Will Jones says the families will be lifelong friends now.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Will Jones said. “I thank God for him, and for others who are willing to help others.”
The Rev. Harold Lawrence, pastor of First United Methodist Church where the families attend, says the story has brought the congregation together.
“Everyone was very touched by Jamie’s decision,” Lawrence said. “It really galvanized the idea that faith needs to be put into action at some point, and Jamie is a model for that. Everyone strives to do what they feel Christ is leading them to do, but it’s refreshing to see someone act on their faith. His demonstration was a powerful witness for the whole congregation. It was as powerful a witness as the gift he made.”
Jones and Lawrence both said they hope Bradfield’s decision will inspire others to be a living organ donor. Theirs was the only transplant to be performed at Egleston last week, and Jamie and Claire Bradfield saw the faces of the children who still are waiting.
“It shouldn’t matter if people know” he donated a kidney, Bradfield said. “I’m not the focus. We never need to lose sight of the fact this is about Thomas. This is God’s plan, not my doing. When God asks you to do something, you do it.”
The Jones family has nothing but praise for Bradfield, and Egleston, which factored in to the family’s decision to move here. With the support the Jones have received from the community, they have nothing but praise for LaGrange as well.
“We are grateful for the life-saving gift and the other people who have helped with childcare and meals,” Will Jones said. “We’re touched by the outpouring from the community. LaGrange has loved our family and we will always love LaGrange. I would just ask that you continue to pray for our family, that the treatment will work and the kidney will last long into the future.”