Marine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rival


May 26, 2024
Marine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rivalMarine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rivalMarine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rival

Two pool players, who were once intense competitors, have developed a deep and lasting friendship after a life-changing kidney transplant brought them closer than ever.

James Harris Jr. of Glen Burnie, Maryland, and Russ Redhead of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, first met about a decade ago at The Bank Shot Bar & Grill in Maryland during an American Poolplayers Association tournament. The two were competing for a top prize of an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, setting the stage for a fierce rivalry.

After losing to Harris in that high-stakes match, Redhead, frustrated, took to Facebook to criticize Harris. However, mutual friends quickly came to Harris’s defense, leading Redhead to eventually delete the post and apologize.

Marine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rival
Marine veteran donates kidney to his billiards rival

“And then I learned over time that Harris is actually a really good guy,” Redhead, 42, told “Good Morning America.” “And, you know, we went to other tournaments together, we would bet on people together and stuff like that … so we really started to bond from there.”

In 2020, the tables turned dramatically when Harris, who had been battling kidney disease, was diagnosed with complete renal failure after contracting COVID-19. The medical staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center swiftly performed surgery to place a catheter and start him on dialysis.

“I didn’t know dialysis automatically means renal failure, which means your kidneys are no longer working. So that means you need a transplant — but they don’t spring all that on you at once,” recalled Harris, now 54. He was placed on the UMMC transplant waiting list, aware that he might wait years for a matching donor kidney.

As Harris faced this daunting challenge, Redhead, moved by their evolving friendship, decided to get tested to see if he could help. Remarkably, he turned out to be a perfect match. Without hesitation, Redhead chose to donate his kidney to Harris, a decision that transformed their relationship forever.

The transplant surgery was successful, and both men are now recovering well. Redhead’s act of generosity has not only saved Harris’s life but also cemented a bond that transcends their initial rivalry. “James has always been a great competitor, but this act of generosity shows the depth of his character,” Redhead said. “He saved my life, and I am forever grateful.”

Their story has inspired many in their community, highlighting the power of forgiveness, friendship, and selflessness. The Bank Shot Bar & Grill, where their journey began, plans to host a special event to celebrate their extraordinary story and the profound connection that now unites them.

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