70-yr-old Vietnam vet saves fellow soldier's life by donating his kidney as fate reunites them after 50 years
Doug Kaufman first learned that Jim McGee needed a kidney transplant after he met him at a fellow serviceman's funeral three months ago and decided to donate one of his own
Jim McGee and Doug Kaufman served together in the Vietnam War about 50 years ago. The two soldiers were reunited when they were at a fellow serviceman’s funeral three months ago. At the funeral, Kaufman learned that McGee needed a kidney, reports People magazine.
Kaufman, 70, says he immediately reached the only logical conclusion and offered up one of his kidneys. “We have not seen each other face to face until we met in Monterey [California] about three months ago,” McGee, 69, told Fox5 in Washington, D.C. “Doug, at that point, volunteered a kidney, and to me, it’s the gift of life.”
“Our blood and tissue type match,” Kaufman added. “And, to me, it just is living proof that we’re all part of one human family. The chances of our match — I don’t know what the odds were but we beat them.”
McGee is now a retired foreign service officer and the former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe and Madagascar used to undergo dialysis three times a week near his home in Sarasota, Florida, while also sitting on a lengthy waitlist for a kidney donation. He told the publication that Kaufman’s donation would give him his life back.
“One thing about dialysis — it pretty much locks you into your home base,” he said. “With this gift, I’m going to be back on the road again.”
Kaufman, on the other hand, is a natural history researcher and author living in Eugene, Oregon, and he, along with McGee, flew to D.C. for the transplant surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital on Tuesday. The surgeon at the hospital said that Kaufman has the kidneys of a 35-year-old person.
“I never visualized myself in this position. It never would have occurred to me to be a kidney donor,” Kaufman said. “It was just being in the right place at the right time.” Now that the successful surgery is behind him, McGee hopes others will consider a donation.
“One of the things I’m most passionate about right now is making certain that everyone understands that there’s a national crisis,” he said.
“One hundred thousand people are waiting for kidney transplants, another 15,000 are waiting for liver transplants, and it’s people like Doug who step forward and make the difference.”
“When I think of all the ways it might not have worked out…” Kaufman mused. “It was meant to be,” McGee told him.