The Giver:Man behind a miracle

27 Nov 2009 | Lance Cpl. R. J. Driver

The Marine Corps hangs its hat on honor, courage and commitment, but everyone knows selfless service is the most important aspect. Cpl. Ryan Fackey, a plane captain with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, knows this better than anyone else. The fourth-generation Marine dedicated himself to serving in the Marine Corps and making a difference in people’s lives. On this most recent Veteran’s Day, Fackey set the bar higher than most.

Truly living up to the proud legacy his forefathers displayed, Fackey touched the life of a 15-year-old Columbia native by donating his kidney to her.

Thanks to his act, doctors believe it will cure her diabetes, extend her life and reduce the amount of medication she has to ingest, which caused her own kidneys to fail.

In 2008, Fackey volunteered to deploy to Iraq to serve in combat and experience small-unit cohesiveness just as generations before him have. While he didn’t see much “trigger time,” Fackey was witness to children begging and showing scars they have received.

“The children there are in far worse conditions than I have ever been in,” Fackey said. “The worst case I’ve ever seen was a child missing an arm. After that, it inspired me to do something for children in America.”

When Fackey returned, he researched various ways to make a difference in a young person’s life. He stumbled across a few foundations and organizations, but there was only one idea that piqued his interest, altruistic donation. Fackey decided donating his own kidney was the ultimate way to give back.

Fackey had to research the ramifications of donating an organ while serving actively in the military. After finding the Marine Corps Order to back up his request, he was granted permission by his command.

After the command gave the OK, he notified his parents, who were uneasy about his decision, and the nearest transplant facility to be put on the anonymous donor list.

He was accepted onto a list at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“I told him that I wasn’t sure he should go through with it,” said his mother, Brenda. “There has to be another way to give rather than donate an organ. He said he could give one away to save someone’s life and still be fine.”

Brenda made the 650 mile trip from Hamilton, Ohio to be by her son’s side during a time he needed her most. Although she was extremely hesitant, she wasn’t surprised by her son’s ambition to donate. She said “he has always been a giving person.”

In fact, Ryan is such a giving person that he didn’t look at giving his own kidney as a sacrifice.

“It’s not a sacrifice,” Ryan said. “People go their whole life with two kidneys when they only need one. If I only NEED one, why is it a sacrifice?”

Ryan’s selfless generosity doesn’t stop with immediate family and children; he also has a history of helping his neighbors regularly.

“If they ever need anything, I help them without them having to ask,” he said.

According to Ryan, although they don’t share the same household, they are still his family and have been around his whole life.

Ryan’s outgoing and laid-back personality was on display at dinner before the interview. From the moment the waitress greeted everyone at the table, Ryan had everyone laughing and joking. High-fiving the waitress and leaving generous tips is the norm for Ryan.

“I love to make people’s day,” Ryan said. “The waitress had a big smile on her face and seemed like she enjoyed our company.”

After dinner with Jones’ family and his mother, Ryan left a tip for the waitress in typical Fackey fashion. He discretely opened his wallet and slid a $20 bill under the receipt the waitress placed on the table and caught a glimpse of her smile while leaving the restaurant.

Ryan’s giving spirit is part of his giving character and guides his every thought, allowing him to thrive off helping others and making life better for children.

“If I weren’t giving, I wouldn’t be me,” Ryan said. “It’s something that feels natural to me. I like to make a difference in others lives.”