Jamie Bradfield would have been perfectly happy to donate one of his kidneys and have no one except his family and the recipient family be aware.
As small towns are wont to go, however, it didn’t work out that way.
When Bradfield knew he’d be having surgery to donate his kidney to 10-year-old Thomas Jones, it wasn’t just his modesty that spurred his desire to keep things confidential. He knew Thomas and his family had been through heartache and disappointment many times over already while waiting to find a match. The last thing he wanted to do was be another reason for letdown.
“We don’t need to lose sight of the fact this is about Thomas,” he said many times, before and after the Jan. 3 surgery.
“I am not the focus,” he said. “If you’re willing, it shouldn’t matter if people know or not.”
The community has rallied around Thomas, but they also have come to the aid of Bradfield and his family during his recovery. When Bradfield returned to LaGrange on Jan. 5, a crowd of supporters stood outside Hollis Hand Elementary School, welcoming him home with signs calling him a hero. One sign even had a Superman logo.
And no one who knows him has had a bad thing to say about him.
“He was born to do this,” said Andrea Lovejoy, retired LaGrange Daily News editor, who has known Bradfield’s family for years, including his parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur D. Bradfield, better known as Click and Boonie, were longtime community volunteers themselves. Click Bradfield, Jamie’s mother, helped to organize the group that now is known as Twin Cedars Youth Services, after a local couple was arrested and there was nowhere to take the children. The children wound up in jail too.
“I don’t see how my parents couldn’t have influenced me,” Jamie Bradfield said. His mother was more vocal but his father also did countless things behind the scenes for LaGrange, he said.
“My mother was as giving a person as you can imagine. She always had a heart for other people,” he said.
Coincidentally, it was LaGrange College that brought Click Bradfield to LaGrange, where she met Jamie’s father. Thomas’ father, Will, is the vice president for external relations at LaGrange College.
Will Jones said part of the reason he and his family moved to LaGrange was because they literally drew circles around the best hospitals for Thomas’s care when they were looking to relocate. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston is known as one of the best to treat Thomas’s genetic kidney disease and the job at LaGrange College happened to be open.
Who knew the circle they drew would include a donor for Thomas as well?
“God has hands all over this,” Bradfield said.
The Bradfields don’t seek out the spotlight, and frankly, the Jones don’t, either.
But the community has embraced this story, and these two families, because it’s hard for even the most hard-hearted, crusty reporter such as myself not to be touched by it.
People are hungry for good news. Twenty-seven people died in Newtown, Conn., at the hands of a shooter just before Christmas. Congress has an approval rating lower than cockroaches. Four children died in a fire in Conyers last week. And even LaGrange isn’t without its bad news.
When the news was announced at First United Methodist Church that Thomas had a match and the donor was at the service, a gasp went up through the crowd at a church whose congregation is not known for dramatic outbursts.
Every once in a while, the good guy wins.
It’s nice that small towns still celebrate that.