This is the story of how one man selflessly saved the life of another. It happened in June 2019, when Farragut alum Christopher Chadwick ‘88N was an organ donor for Robert Tizon. Here’s the story, in Rob’s own words.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a hereditary illness with mysterious origins and no known cure. At that time, it didn’t yet affect my daily activities, and because it was detected early, my doctors were able to monitor its progression.
Four years later, a work reassignment took me from North Carolina to Washington D.C., to work in an office under the Undersecretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. This is where I met Chris Chadwick.
At the time, Chris was assigned as the Director of Operations for the Northeast Region of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves (ESGR). In 2011 I became his deputy.
In 2012, Chris accepted an assignment in Florida, leaving me as the acting director until his replacement arrived. By the time Chris returned to D.C. for another tour of duty, I had already retired from the Air Force. This didn’t stop us from keeping in touch through Facebook.
Fast forward to 2017. By this time, the progression of my PKD worsened. My kidney functions were at 14%. My doctor told me that once it dropped to 10%, I would be listed on the national registry for kidney transplants. That finally happened in March 2018.
On the registry didn’t mean a donation would happen soon. For my blood type, the average waiting time on the transplant list was 3-5 years. Even though I hadn’t started dialysis, at the rate my PKD was progressing, I knew I would be on dialysis within a year or two.
After having exhausted all my avenues and resources, and after having one of my best friends disqualified due to a medical issue, my mom and wife encouraged me to ask my friends on Facebook if anyone would be willing to be tested as a possible donor. I swallowed my pride and did so. A few people asked for information, including Chris.
Around November 2018, I received a message from Chris, letting me know that he had contacted the transplant clinic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and was scheduled to go through the first stage of testing.
I was in awe, to say the least. Here was a friend and former supervisor, whom I hadn’t seen in more than seven years, getting tested to be my kidney donor. I wasn’t really sure how to react. I thanked him for his willingness to be tested and told him that I would be forever grateful, even if the test revealed we weren’t a match.
I didn’t have to worry about that, because within a couple of weeks, we were told that we were a match! Then over the next seven months, Chris underwent several more tests and appointments as part of the screening process.
Then on June 11, 2019, the transplant clinic called me with the good news: Chris was approved to be my donor and the surgery was scheduled for June 27! WHAT A BLESSING! The timing couldn’t have been any better.
That afternoon was my scheduled monthly check-up with my doctor, who told me that if it wasn’t for the good news, that was the day she was going to tell me that I had to start mentally preparing for dialysis. At this point, my total kidney function was at 8%.
Finally, on June 26, 2019, I saw Chris for the first time in more than seven years, when we both checked into the hospital for the surgery. So what do you do when you see someone you haven’t seen in years, and that someone is about to save your life? You give that person a HUGE hug!
Allow me to digress. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the man who saved me is named Chris. You see, I was raised in a Catholic family and ever since childhood I considered Saint Christopher my favorite saint. I favored him so much, that I named my son Robert Christopher and referred to him as either Christopher or Chris.
Sadly, my son Chris succumbed to mental illness and took his life in 2008. He was a senior in high school and had been accepted to every college he applied to, to include his dream school, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He was going to attend under an Air Force ROTC scholarship, majoring in Aerospace Engineering.
My personal belief is that the other Chris — Chris Chadwick — was placed in my life for a purpose. He is MY Saint Christopher and I’ve told him that on numerous occasions.
Chris is a caring, honorable, and selfless individual to not only his country and the U.S. Navy but also to those who are close to him. We were already bonded as military brothers, but through grace, we are now and forever family.