The Spirit of Giving

20 Nov 2009 | Lance Cpl. R. J. Driver

He created a miracle just in time.

People all over the world live in fear of losing a loved one while waiting for an organ donor everyday. Someone’s sister or daughter is lying in a hospital bed, helpless, depending on another person to sacrifice their very own kidney to give them a “normal” life.

The parents of 15-year old Dani Jones experienced this firsthand.  Their prayers were answered by one of Fightertown’s own.

 Corporal Ryan Fackey, a plane captain with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, donated his kidney to Jones, a Columbia native, on Veterans Day to give her a new life; a life without a handful of medication every morning, a life without frequent doctor visits and a life without pain and seizures.

While in Iraq, Fackey, a Hamilton, Ohio native, witnessed things which would inspire him forever.

“The things I saw there were mind-blowing,” Fackey said. “The worst I’ve seen was a child with a missing arm and he looked to us (Americans) to help them. After that, I felt there was a bigger way for me to help people when I got back.”

Fackey searched far and wide for a program he could contribute to once he returned from Iraq.

“Ryan went through a couple of programs before deciding to donate,” said Brenda Fackey, Ryan’s mother. “He discussed it with our family before making a final decision. It wasn’t a surprise because this is how he has always been.”

With the use of the internet, Ryan found plenty of programs and opportunity, but only one piqued his interest.

“I stumbled across altruistic organ donation and it sounded like something I could do to really make a difference in someone’s life,” Ryan said.

The National Kidney Foundation states 95,000 people in the U.S. are currently on the waiting list for a kidney and an additional 4,000 people are added to the list each month.

Once Ryan was able to convince his command to allow him to donate a kidney, he began tackling preliminary  procedures. Blood testing, trips to Charleston, fitness tests, ultrasounds, x-rays and more were done on Fackey’s own time.

“Everything I did to prepare for this surgery was all done outside of the Marine Corps’ time,” Ryan said. “I used leave days, my own money and more, and I don’t regret anything.”

Jones’ family heard that a donor had been identified after waiting only two days. Once the news was out, they wanted to know the man behind the miracle and requested to meet Ryan. He agreed.

Ryan’s first encounter with Jones, the day before the surgery, was something he will never forget.

“I had no clue who I was donating to,” Ryan said. “I found out once I arrived to the hospital and someone whispered to me that she was right there. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say to her. What do you say to someone who’s receiving your kidney ‘you’re welcome?’ I remember her standing there next to her mother, and I realized how small she was. She looked as if she was barely 12 (years old) and come to find out, she was 15.”

Despite the shock, Ryan and Jones were not only a perfect match donor wise, but also had similar personalities.  They exchanged phone numbers and usernames for Myspace and Facebook and sent several texts back and forth throughout the day. Jones also couldn’t wait to text her friends about the Marine who was donating his kidney.

The morning of the surgery, the Fackey and Jones’ families arrived bright and early, despite the downpour in Charleston that Wednesday.

Ryan underwent surgery preparations first. As he lay in his bed draped with covers, Jones gave him a big hug and said, “I love you, thank you.”

Moments later Ryan’s two-hour surgery began. After the kidney was removed, it was cradled in the doctors experienced hands and carefully walked to an adjacent operating room where it was successfully transplanted to Jones.

Because of Fackey, Jones can now have a second chance at life and her first chance at normalcy just in time for the holidays.

“I wouldn’t do anything different,” Ryan said. “I made a difference in a little girl’s life forever; I am more than happy and wouldn’t change it for the world.”