kidney donation

Two Virginia referees share friendship thanks to time on the court, and a kidney donation

"It was a pretty easy decision, like the cost-benefit was pretty easy for me to make that decision."

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Making the right call can be difficult for those who wear the black-and-white stripes of a referee.

It's something Andre Jones and Issac Bumgardner, both basketball referees in Alexandria, have come to learn -- and for quite some time.

“I’ve been refereeing since 1996,” Bumgardner said.

“I’ve been refereeing since 1999,” Jones said.

Through the years, the pair have become close on and off the court. Then, in 2020, their friendship grew closer after Jones received word that he had stage 5 chronic kidney disease.

Doctors told Jones that he needed a kidney.

"They immediately put me on dialysis and I was also diagnosed with congestive heart failure, from all the fluid that was being retained, within my lungs and around my heart," Jones said.


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Close to 870,000 Americans are living with kidney failure, and more than 562,000 Americans are on dialysis, according to the American kidney fund. Jones was now part of that number.

"I was doing it 3 or 4 times a week for 5 hours at a time, which was tiring," Jones said.

"Word got out that, you know, he was in failing health," Bumgardner said.

Once Bumgardner got word about Jones's story, he went in for some tests, and later found that he was a perfect kidney match for Jones.

"I was surprised that, you know, I was going to be a match," Bumgardner said. "It was a pretty easy decision, like the cost-benefit was pretty easy for me to make that decision."

Last summer, both had a successful surgery and procedure. This year, they're back on the sidelines together calling games.

Their message for others in their community?

"Ask those extra questions," Jones said. "Don’t hold back your questions, if you’re ill. Have that dialogue with your doctor, with your medical team."

"You look out for those people that are in your community, and that’s what it continues to be and that’s what it will be, for some years to come," Bumgardner said. "Hopefully, we have a few more runs in us, for a couple more years. Fingers crossed."

They're important lessons in between the lines, and in the game of life.

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