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WATERLOO -- Thursday at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, Doug Christensen will donate a kidney to Andy Devine.

Without it, Devine would continue a draining and indefinite routine of dialysis, fatigue and uncertainty as one of hundreds of individuals in need of a kidney transplant. A victim of kidney failure caused by diabetes, he's been on the waiting list for approximately two years.

Thanks to Christensen, the former Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course pro whose declining health forced him to step aside in November can now look forward to a future quality of life that at least resembles the one that has slowly eroded over the past several years.

"We're friends," said Christensen, who reluctantly agreed to discuss his decision publicly. "We've known each other for seven or eight years. I met him through golf.

"We have a couple of common friends (Tim Luce and Dave Panicucci) who knew about his situation. Andy didn't talk about his health a lot. I stopped by and had coffee with him a couple of times during the winter and he told me about it and the list he's been on. You would think somehow, somewhere a kidney would show up, but it doesn't happen quite that easily.

"My wife (Cindy) said we should check and see if we were a match. I really didn't want to think about it, but then we saw somewhere that Andy and I were both O-positive (blood type). I called Andy and said, 'What do I have to do?'"

Devine directed the 64-year-old Christensen, who was deeply involved in the Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Association in its development, to the University of Iowa Hospitals website where Christensen completed an initial application.

Things happened quickly from there.

"They called and asked when I could go down for a screening," Christensen related. "It's usually six to eight weeks to get you in, but they had a cancellation and they had an opening."

The screening process is extensive. Christensen was a good match as far as his overall health and blood type, but he was told he needed to lose a few pounds and reduce his blood pressure, which he promptly returned home and did.

"It all finally came in where they wanted it," he explained. "And after all the testing was done, they said I was a really good match and when do you want to do this?

"We are so fortunate to have University of Iowa Hospitals in our state. They give you a lot of confidence and they make you feel really good about it."

The decision to donate a kidney isn't entirely a personal one. There are other considerations, such as home care during recovery and time away from work. Christensen has received nothing but support.

"I've got great support from my wife and a lot of friends," noted Christensen. "When I explained what I wanted to do, the people at work (Christensen is in sales for Midwest Wheel) said, 'We're proud of you and how can we say no? Go do what you've got to do.'"

Panicucci, Christensen and Luce met through the youth soccer association some 20 years ago.

"I think it's remarkable," said Panicucci. "I'd like to think I'm a kind, generous person but I don't know if I could donate a kidney to somebody I met on the golf course. It takes a certain person to step up and donate a kidney."

Devine is overwhelmed.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "I had some communication with him and he told me he was going down to Iowa City to get screened. I just couldn't believe he was going to do that.

"I'm still in awe. This is something you hear about happening to somebody else. When it actually happens to you ... I think I'll really start believing when I go to the hospital.

"It's a really special thing he's doing. I've been searching for a week now to find the right words. I'm not coming up with them yet."

If all goes according to plan, Christensen will be released from the hospital Saturday while Devine's stay will be a bit longer as doctors closely monitor his recovery and his body's acceptance of the new kidney.

Christensen has been told he should be back on the golf course by June.

"Why do this? A lot of people have asked me that," said Christensen. "I can't change the world, but maybe I can change a little bit around me. Andy's a great person. I think good things should happen to good people and I can do this, so I'm going to."

Christensen has issued one warning to Devine.

"I told him if this affects his golf game, it's not my fault."

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Sports Editor for The Courier

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