Carroll High School classmates from 50 years ago reconnect as one donates a kidney to the other
Apr 16, 2018
Almost 50 years ago, Archbishop Carroll High School classmates Kenneth Walker and Charles Ball shared a school stage as members of the Jet gang in a student production of “West Side Story.”
On Monday, April 16, the two men shared a George Washington University Hospital surgical ward as Ball donated a kidney to Walker, a local resident and former television news reporter.
Walker and Ball – both members of Carroll’s Class of 1969 when the archdiocesan high school was still an all-boys school – reconnected when Walker, suffering from kidney disease, sent out a blast e-mail to former classmates seeking a kidney donor.
“When Kenny sent the e-mail, I just thought to myself that I would go through the tests and put it in God’s hands,” said Ball, now a resident of California. When tests confirmed he would be a matching donor for Walker, Ball said he did not hesitate to offer his kidney. He said he has spent many years doing volunteer work, and “I like to give people hope.”
Walker, who has been on dialysis for nearly two years while waiting for a donated kidney, said he sent the e-mail because “dialysis has been very debilitating.” Dialysis – also called renal replacement therapy – removes excess water and toxins from the blood when a person’s compromised kidneys cannot function properly.
“Charlie’s gift came as a deep shock, and I am deeply grateful,” Walker said.
According to the Living Kidney Donor Network, there are more than 93,000 people on kidney transplant waiting lists. The average wait for a kidney is between five and 10 years.
Mark Savercool, Carroll’s vice president for advancement, pointed out that while “these guys were not great friends during high school and certainly had not kept in touch,” over the decades, he was not surprised that “a classmate would step up and answer the call to help another classmate.”
“The two classmates were in their junior year when the riots of 1968 broke out in parts of the city. They were students during a difficult time,” Savercool said. “But we were the first integrated high school in Washington and that sent a message to the local community and the country that we are all brothers and sisters.”
The fact that one classmate would help a long lost classmate in need, he added, “is a celebration of and a pleasant reminder that the values they learned at this school 50 years ago, they still carry with them.”
Ball said that while he and Walker were not close friends during their school years, he felt called to help because at Carroll “we learned about faith, hope and love. I am giving Kenny hope and unconditional love.”
He added that he is “joyfully overwhelmed” to donate a kidney to his former classmate.
Two days prior to the surgery – on Saturday, April 14 – Savercool arranged a dinner at the school for Walker, Ball and a couple of classmates. Father John Mudd, a 1961 graduate of Carroll and now the school’s director of advancement emeritus, celebrated a Mass prior to the dinner. He also anointed the men.
The gathering took place on the same day as Walker’s final round of dialysis.
Father Mudd said he offered the Mass as “a prayer for Kenny and Charlie and for the success of the surgery and for ourselves that we may always be inspired to give.”
He reminded those gathered at the Mass that “when you live like Jesus lived and you act like Jesus acted, you can change the world.”
During the Mass, Father Mudd led prayers for “the physicians, nurses, hospital personnel and all caregivers who are God’s ambassadors of love, compassion and healing.”
In anointing the two men, Father Mudd prayed that God would “ease any suffering, strengthen any weakness … and grant them comfort and courage.”
Of his classmate’s willingness to help him, Walker noted Archbishop Carroll High School “is a special place. They taught us we are family.”
Walker also said he would encourage others to donate because “to do this is to give the gift of life.”
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