Mark Robertson

Mark Robertson

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It all changed for two rivals at the pool table when one needed a kidney

James Harris Jr. and Russ Redhead may have been competitive in pool halls around Maryland and Pennsylvania over the years, but it took a turn when ten years ago James beat Russ for a trip to a Vegas pool tournament. Because Redhead played at a higher skill level, Harris was given a 20-point handicap advantage. Harris said that Redhead was so upset about his loss that he went on Facebook to vent. “He blasted me all over the place, saying I was cheating the system and had been given an unfair rating,” said Harris. “I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I wasn’t very kind, and when people started defending James, I realized I’d made a big mistake.”

Ten years later, the Marine found a way to make up for his nasty outburst, donating one of his kidneys to Harris at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

The night before the transplant, Redhead stayed at Harris’s place, and the men played a game of pool in the basement. And wouldn't you know it: the next morning, the men had a flat tire on their way to the hospital.

It was a long journey for Harris and Redhead to become close enough that they now wear matching T-shirts that say “Kidney buddies for life.”

“What do you say to someone who would do something so life-changing for you?” Harris said. “On the morning of the transplant, I gave him a heartfelt thank-you.”

The transplant was a success and both men were up and walking around the hospital one day after surgery.

Harris said that within hours of returning home from the hospital, he felt energetic enough to head to his basement for a quick game of pool.

“They wanted me up and moving, so I told them, ‘This is moving,’” he said.

Kidney transplant operation

Photo: Owen Franken / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

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