MEBANE, N.C. — A man in Mebane is offering his coworker an unusual gift — Mike Foster has decided to give a kidney to his colleague of twenty years, Roger Oakely.
Oakley has had diabetes since he was 14 years old. In recent years, his kidneys slowly started shutting down.
“It got down to where they were functioning at 8%. They told me at that point I needed to go on dialysis. I was put on the kidney donor list about five to six years out for a kidney,” said Oakley.
He spends seven hours every day on dialysis. Oakley hooks himself up to the machine every night at home and tries to sleep through the process. It wakes him in the middle of the night when it shuts off, so he can record his weight and blood pressure.
“I felt much better after going on dialysis, but it meant no overnight vacations. No late night football games with my teenage son,” explained Oakley.
One day during lunch at work, Mike Foster overheard Oakley talking about how disappointed he was that his wife turned out not to be a transplant match.
“It made him so sick that I just thought — that’s no way for anyone to have to be,” said Foster.
It was an unlikely pair for friends. Mike Foster is a diehard Duke fan, Oakley is a Carolina fanatic. They’ve worked together for two decades but had never hung out outside of the office.
“Mike didn’t hesitate at all. He asked me one day if you were to donate a kidney to someone, how would you go about doing it,” remembered Oakley.
“We started talking about this in February and March,” said Foster. “He kept saying,’You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to do this.’ I said ‘it’s not that I have to. This is something I wanted to do’.”
“He came to me that day or the next day and said, ‘I’m O-positive. I’ll give you a kidney,'” said Oakley.
Amazingly, Oakley and Foster’s kidneys were a perfect match for transplant.
Oakley was in awe. “It was overwhelming for someone to say they’re willing to give a body part to someone they don’t even know that good,” he said.
Foster’s wife and two children support his decision to help Roger.
“To me there’s really just too many people around now that only look after themselves. Somebody needs help doing something. If I’m able to do it, I’m doing it,” said Foster.
Foster admits he’s nervous about the surgery, but knows it’s the right choice. “I guess I’m just really lucky I’ve been healthy so I can help.”
Oakley says his church friends and family members have been praying for him for years.
“I guess my prayers have been answered — through Mike.That’s the ultimate gift. There ain’t nothing I can give him back to replace what he’s giving me,” said Oakley.
As for their team rivalry, Mike insists Duke wins this one.
“He’ll convert,” he laughs. “Even though we’re getting [the surgery] done at Chapel Hill, he’ll convert,” said Foster.
The transplant surgery is scheduled for early Tuesday morning next week. Their recovery will likely take about two months.
Foster hopes one day, after they are both well, his and Oakley’s families can take a vacation together.
“A cruise would be the ultimate celebration, and neither of us have ever done that,” said Foster.
At the very least, the pair hopes to make it to the Duke/Carolina basketball game at the end of this season. “I’ve definitely gained a new friend!” joked Oakley.