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One-time Maryland pool rivals connected over life-saving kidney transplant

One-time Maryland pool rivals connected over life-saving kidney transplant
One-time Maryland pool rivals connected over life-saving kidney transplant 02:28

BALTIMORE - One-time Maryland pool rivals are now connected for life over a life-saving kidney donation.

April is "Donate Life Month" and, for two men, a kidney transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center changed their perspectives on life.

More than a decade ago, James Harris Jr., of Glen Burnie, won an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas from a high-stakes pool tournament. 

As he celebrated, another player, Russ Redhead, of Lancaster, Pa., accused him of cheating. 

"He posted a nice long, nasty message on Facebook saying I was cheating," Harris said. "They call it sandbagging."


Redhead has since apologized and has become a part of James's pool family. 

But for three years, Harris kept a secret from his pool family, that he was quietly fighting for his life. Harris was on dialysis and in desperate need of a kidney transplant. 

"I had got COVID in December 2020 and it caused a blood clot which sent me into renal failure," Harris said.

After learning she wasn't able to donate herself, Harris's wife, Denise posted a message on Facebook to share his story with the hope of inspiring someone else to consider donating. 

"Your life expectancy drops tremendously when you are on dialysis," Harris said. "It's hard on the heart and your bones. Some people don't make it the first year."

Harris said there was a time he didn't think he would survive.

"It was pretty tough. I'm just glad I'm beyond it," Harris said.

Redhead, Harris's one-time pool rival, donated a kidney with the help of transplant surgeons Dr. Raphael Meier, Dr. Daniel Maluf, and nephrologist Dr. Richard Ugarte to save a life.

"If I was in the same situation, I would want someone else to step up for me," Redhead said. "That's why I did it."

"He was like family, being in the pool world, but now he's more like a brother for stepping up and doing something like that," Harris said.

Redhead is calling on others to go through the testing process to potentially save someone else's life. 

"We all need help sometimes," Redhead said. "Everybody needs help in a different way. I was really just trying to do the right thing."

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