Pool Pros Were Bitter Rivals, But Everything Changed When One Needed a Kidney

Pool Pros Were Bitter Rivals, But Everything Changed When One Needed a Kidney

Two pool players who were once bitter rivals have become like brothers after one of the men donated his kidney when the other suffered renal failure.

The touching story of the improbable friendship between James Harris Jr. of Glen Burnie, Maryland, and Russ Redhead of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers positivity amid the turmoil and divisiveness ravaging the world.

Harris, 54, and Redhead, 42, first met a decade ago, when they competed in a pool tournament in Maryland hosted by the American Poolplayers Association, ABC News’ “Good Morning America” reported Thursday.

At the time, the men were vying to win an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, where the winner would compete for a larger grand prize.

After losing to Harris, a frustrated Redhead wrote a scathing Facebook post, accusing Harris of winning unfairly.

Mutual friends who saw the message defended Harris, convincing Redhead to eventually delete the post and apologize to his opponent.

The two rivals gradually got to know each other and soon became friends.

“And then I learned over time that Harris is actually a really good guy,” Redhead told GMA. “And, you know, we went to other tournaments together, we would bet on people together and stuff like that … so we really started to bond [from] there.”

In 2020, Harris, who had a kidney disease, suffered complete renal failure after contracting COVID-19.

Physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center told him he needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t know dialysis automatically means … renal failure, which means your kidneys are no longer working,” Harris told GMA. “So that means you need a transplant.”

He was placed on a transplant waiting list, but was told it could take years to find an appropriate donor.

Harris’ wife, Denise, underwent tests but discovered she was not a good match.

In November 2022, while attending a pool tournament with her husband, Denise discussed her husband’s health issues with Redhead, who volunteered to donate his kidney.

“After she told me all the things that you need to be a donor, I looked at her, and I was like, ‘Well, I’ll do it,'” he told GMA.

Redhead said a grateful Denise “started bawling, crying,” and told him, “You don’t even know what that means to us.”

Redhead then underwent testing and learned he was a perfect match. In February, Redhead and Harris underwent a successful kidney transplant.

Doctors told GMA that Harris is recovering well and is “doing great” now.

Looking back on his life-saving decision, Redhead said he donated his kidney because it was “the right thing to do.”

“Someone needed my kidney to help save their life. And if I can do that without any real change to my body and my life, I mean, why not?” he told GMA.

On April 20, Harris is scheduled to compete in his first pool tournament since undergoing the kidney transplant, the New York Post reported.

In the fall, he and his wife plan to visit Lebanon, Pennsylvania, when Redhead opens his own pool hall.

“Russ is not only a BFF, Russ is now our brother and our family,” Harris told the Post. “He’s our family.”

Amid the ugly racial divisiveness splintering our nation, this heartwarming story of former rivals turned “kidney buddies for life” provides a much-needed reminder that goodwill among men still exists.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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