Ala. Deputy Donates Kidney to Police Officer He'd Never Met

March 12, 2024
“Somebody needed something to live, and I was very lucky to be able to help with that," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Lt. Mike House, who donated a kidney to Vestavia Hills Police Cpl. Jerry Hughes.

Two Alabama law enforcement officers who didn’t know each other are now forever connected after one saved the life of another.

Jefferson County sheriff’s Lt. Mike House said God put it on his heart two years ago that he was to be a kidney donor. He didn’t know when and he didn’t know who, but he was sure it would happen one day.

Meanwhile, across town, Vestavia Hills police Cpl. Jerry Hughes was spending nine hours a day on dialysis after being diagnosed with renal failure, also a couple of years ago. His daughter turned to social media and local news in search of a kidney.

The two embarked on separate journeys that would land them in the same place at the same time – operating tables at UAB Hospital on Dec. 6, 2023.

“In law enforcement, we have a lot of things we do spur of the moment, things that happen, things that we see, things that we have to respond to,’’ House, 55, said. “And we do what we have to do.”

“This was really no different,’’ House said. “Somebody needed something to live, and I was very lucky to be able to help with that.”

“The man saved my life,’’ Hughes said. “He gave me time with my family, time with my grandbabies.”

“He gave me my world back,’’ Hughes said.

The Vestavia Hills Police Department is honoring House as tonight’s city council meeting.

House said when he was first called to be a kidney donor, he was not what a kidney donor looked like.

“I was overweight, I was out of shape, I’m middle-aged,’’ he said. “It didn’t make sense to me, but I knew that God doesn’t make mistakes, so I knew that’s the direction I needed to head.”

House reached out to UAB’s transplant program and told them he wanted to be a donor. He was brought in for testing and, as expected, told he was overweight and out of shape, and didn’t qualify to donate his kidney.

“They confirmed what I already knew,’’ he said.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t be a donor eventually, but he had some work to do. UAB gave him a list of benchmarks that he would need to accomplish first.

“So, I started working hard on it. I ended up losing about 40 pounds, got in a lot better shape, started taking care of myself,’’ he said. “It took me a year to qualify.”

Finally, House was ready.

“Once I qualified, I didn’t know who I was supposed to donate to so that was the next question,’’ he said. “I went on the general donor list and stayed on that.”

One night, he and his wife were watching the local news on television and saw an interview with Hughes and his wife and daughter. The story focused on Hughes’ search for a donor.

“I normally do not watch TV news. It’s very rare that I do but we had it on,’’ House said. “That’s when God let me know that’s what I’d been working towards.”

House reached out to his transplant coordinator and asked if he could be a donor for Hughes. Though he had already been through a lot of testing, House went back in for more tests.

Several days later, the coordinator called him back and said he did qualify to donate his kidney to Hughes. She asked him what he wanted to do.

“I said, ‘Let’s go,’’' House said.

He had never met Hughes but connected with his story.

“That story really, really touched my heart,’’ House said. “That could have been me.”

“Most law enforcement officers, we work two and three jobs, long hours, bad shifts,’’ he said. “A lot of us don’t take care of ourselves the way we should.”

Hughes’ story began when he went for a regular health screening in September 2021, which was required by the police department. It was then he learned his kidney function was low.

The 43-year-old was diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney failure, and put on peritoneal dialysis, which was something he could do at home. He was also put on light duty with the city.

Hughes did the dialysis for nine hours each night, and then tried to work during the day. “Some days it would be tough to make it through a half day,’' he said.

He said a patient can do peritoneal dialysis for about 10 years before the kidneys start to fail. After that would come hemodialysis, which could be done for about another eight to 10 years.

It was right before Thanksgiving 2023 when Hughes was notified he was getting a kidney.

The surgeries were then set for December.

Hughes and House didn’t meet until two days after the surgery. Hughes did not even know his donor was also a law enforcement officer.

“You always hear about a brotherhood in law enforcement, so to me it just came from a brother,’' Hughes said. “It’s very special.”

“We’re all willing to put our lives on the line,’' he said, “but Mike really stepped up to the plate.”

“I actually met his wife and family for the first time when I walked in to have surgery. Jerry had already gone back,’’ House said. “I didn’t meet him until two days after surgery and we were both in recovery.”

“Knowing who he was but not knowing him, was interesting,’’ House said. “I really wanted to know him because we were connected at that point.”

“He was everything I though he would be and so much more,’’ House said. “He’s a wonderful dad, a wonderful husband and I’m just honored to have been able to be a part of this.”

House and Hughes have stayed in touch since the surgery. Just last week, both men and their wives went out to dinner, the first time all four had been together since the surgery.

“They’re just wonderful people,’’ House said. “Down to earth, fun to be around.”

House said he is amazed at Hughes’ tenacity throughout his health struggles.

“They faced it with courage and dedication,’’ he said. “They were going to do whatever it took to be healthy again.”

“He had the dedication to do whatever it took,’’ House said. “Jerry is my hero in all of this.”

Sheriff’s Capt. Cory Hardiman thinks House is a hero as well.

“”Most acts of courage, bravery and heroism take place in the heat of the moment, with little or no time for careful considerations of the potential risks we are accepting at the time,’’ Hardiman said. “This is most often how we measure a truly selfless act.”

“One person, choosing to place themselves in the path of danger to aid another is in my opinion,’’ he said, “is truly heroic and worthy of recognition.”

House said accolades are not needed.

“I wanted this be about Jerry getting a kidney I did not want this to be about me giving a kidney,’’ House said. “What I went through has been a journey, but it so much, pales in comparison to what Jerry and his family have gone through.”

House marvels at the timing of it all.

“It took me a good while to become eligible,’’ he said. “God got me on that path long before I knew Jerry existed.”

Hughes agrees timing was everything.

“It was a miracle to me,’' he said. “The Lord definitely had a hand in it.”


©2024 Advance Local Media LLC.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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