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May 2011

In Grapevine, a neighbor in need finds a golden deed

By Patrick M. Walker


GRAPEVINE -- Jim McCandless needed a kidney, so he wrote a song and made a music video, which he posted online on the YouTube video sharing site in January.

At the local kidney center, I began to dialyze,

Me and some old ladies, and a couple of older guys.

I see things much different now than I ever did

Today if eBay has a kidney for sale, I will make a bid

For a year, McCandless, 65, had required dialysis, three times a week at about five hours a pop. Good thing he was retired, he said, because it was like a part-time job.

When you need a kidney, the song goes, everybody becomes a potential donor.

I'm checking out the neighbors, and anyone at all

Crowded elevators, size up people at the mall

And if I meet somebody, I know just what I'll say

Hi, my name is Jim and I'll be your friend, if you are blood type A

As it turned out, McCandless didn't have to look far.

Last summer, next-door neighbor Robert Housely asked where McCandless was always going with his gym bag. To dialysis, McCandless answered.

A couple of days later, Housely's wife, Pam, came to the backyard fence where the neighbors do their catching up and made a stunning offer.

"She basically said, 'Do you need a kidney?' and I said, 'Yes.'" McCandless recalls. "She said, 'OK, I'll go get tested.'"

An unlikely match

McCandless had not even applied for a transplant. He soon started the long process of paperwork and was finally approved for the list in November, he said. But his challenge was far from over.

Finding a kidney requires not only a blood-type match but also a suitably healthy -- and consenting -- donor, said Dr. Marlon Levy, surgical director of transplantation at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth. The transplant between Housely and McCandless was performed there, but Levy was restricted from speaking specifically about the case.

"Compatible blood type is an absolute requirement and tissue type is important, but probably more important than tissue type is finding a healthy person willing to donate their kidney," he said. "And by 'healthy' I mean somebody who has no high blood pressure, no diabetes, no cancer, no heart disease and no kidney disease."

In short, Levy said, it is usually unlikely that a single specific person -- say, a next-door neighbor -- will meet all the criteria. "The odds are probably better that a family member or a member of your church or a member of a social club or a fellow employee might be able to donate to you," he said.

On top of that, matches vary in degree, from compatible, which can still produce a successful transplant, Levy said, to the far less common perfect match.

Pam Housely, 48, knew that she was willing to give McCandless, her neighbor for 13 years, part of herself, but was she a match? And if so, was she fit enough?

After McCandless became eligible for a transplant, she underwent the tests. The results defied the odds. "The doctors said they couldn't find a more perfect match," she said.

Levy, a 20-year veteran of transplant surgeries who founded the transplant program at Baylor All Saints in 2002, says he can't recall a case in which one neighbor gave a kidney to another.

In general, he said, healthy people willing to put themselves through an operation to give up a kidney "are truly heroic, in my opinion."

'Here for a reason'

The transplant was performed March 31 at Baylor All Saints. Housely, a senior analyst for the Archon Group who helps her husband run Woody's Bar-B-Q in Arlington, was home on the mend about three days later.

Back in his hospital room, McCandless, a former safety and environmental manager for a manufacturer, had a heart attack and experienced other postoperative complications, he said. He finally returned home about three weeks later.

The best news, he said, is that he no longer needs dialysis. Now he can use that time to relax with his newly retired wife, Mary, and keep ribbing Housely. She recently asked to add him as a Facebook friend. "She's trying to keep up with the kidney," he said.

Earlier while talking with a reporter, he joked, "I told Pam I'd quit peeking in the window if she gave me a kidney."

But at another point, he was nearly moved to tears describing her gift.

But she doesn't see herself as a hero.

At Fellowship Church, which she attends, members are urged to "go outside" themselves and "live God's command to 'love your neighbor as yourself,'" she said.

"I feel God put me here for a reason," she said. "Right next door. It's not a Pam thing; it's a God thing."

Online: McCandless' YouTube video,

Patrick M. Walker,

Woody's Bar-B-Q - Arlington, TX

405 Fielder North Plaza
Arlington, TX 76012

Phone: (817) 460-0227
Fax: (817) 460-0229


Media Inquiries: Representing Woody's
Tammy Poudrier, Director of Marketing
(904) 992-0556 Ex. 30
Leigh Cort Publicity

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