‘I’ve been given the keys to my life’: Guilford County school principal donates kidney to Greensboro man

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — From managing virtual learning to a safe return to the classroom, educators have given more of their time and energy this year than before.

Allen Jay Elementary School Principal Carla Flores-Ballesteros decided she could give more after learning that John Brown Jr., of Greensboro, needed a kidney.

“This was just a door that was opening for me to help somebody,” Flores-Ballesteros said.

It started with a phone call from her friend and former colleague Patrice Brown. Flores-Ballesteros and Patrice previously worked together at Western Guilford Middle School, and Flores-Ballesteros knew her husband’s health was in decline.

“She asked how was John. I told her we had a situation where a church member had volunteered to give a kidney, but it didn’t work out. Through the conversation, she said ‘I’ll do it,” Patrice Brown said. “I was floored. I was like did she really say that?”

In August 2019, Brown Jr. was diagnosed with kidney failure. He spent 17 months on dialysis, and his name was added to the organ donation list.

Flores-Ballesteros explained she was healthy enough to make the donation and was quickly approved as a match.

On December 15, the surgery was a success, and she was told Brown Jr. immediately responded positively.

“What a precious gift, and I know we are given these opportunities, and sometimes we don’t see them or we ignore them and turn around. But I think during this time, it’s very important we keep those ears open,” Flores-Ballesteros said. “I could walk into his room, and it was beautiful to be able to see him.”

“I’ve been given the keys to my life if you will. I will be able to do things I’ve always wanted to do,” Brown Jr. said.

He explained his plans to travel with his wife when it is safe to do so.

“There’s nothing like seeing your life unfold without being tethered to a machine,” Brown Jr. added.

Both he and Flores-Ballesteros are thankful that the donation will cross one more name off the waiting list, allowing others to get the help they are still waiting for.

“It’s just demonstrating how one gift of love, one act of love has the ability to perpetuate and help someone else,” Brown Jr. said.

Flores-Ballesteros now jokes that Brown Jr. is like a second brother to her. Both families say they’re grateful for a lifelong bond.

“We are excited about that, just having a whole other layer of family and friendship. It is great,” Patrice Brown said.

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