St. Francis de Sales Parishioner Donates Kidney to Associate Pastor

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Thirteen people die every single day while waiting for a life-saving kidney donation, Fr. Jim Cunningham isn’t going to be one them.

He’s been cleared for a transplant and is waiting for surgery. The organ is coming from Mike Coughlin, his friend and parishioner at St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor. Mike has lived a life of service, inspired by members of his own family to make this kind of sacrifice, he was already planning to donate.

“I have the easy part, the surgeon’s doing the hard part I just have to fall asleep and wake up so I don’t know if it’s a service it’s just an easy way to save lives,” he said.

But this isn’t Father Jim’s first kidney transplant, and Mike isn’t the first friend to go under the knife for him. This is Fr. Jim’s second, second chance at life.

“For people to do this, to get a second chance at life once and then to get it twice, I don’t take this for granted,” said Fr. Jim.

Fr. Jim was first diagnosed with late stage kidney disease in 2015 and in 2016 his good friend, firefighter Pat Nash donated his kidney without hesitation.

This time around, when the new kidney started to fail after Fr. Jim got COVID twice and then MRSA, the parish council at St. Francis de Sales circulated this flier to try and find him a new donor.

“It was an overwhelming response, because of HIPAA laws they can’t tell me who has applied but I got a phone call from the hospital and the coordinator said who are you, we have gotten so many requests,” said Fr. Jim.

And now in about a month, Mike and Fr. Jim will make the swap.

“They mix our blood for a week, we’re both O+ and after a week they said it’s a perfect match and I said perfect, all the signs were there to donate to Fr. Jim,” Mike said.

Mike and Fr. Jim share much more than the same blood type.

“From what I’ve been taught from my father and my mother in law, you’re here to help people if it was a stranger I’d want to help but somebody like Fr Jim, we have to help him,” said Mike.

“I will do everything that I can to stay healthy, take care of myself and serve to the best of my ability,” said Fr. Jim.

The two men share their faith.