Last-minute setback stops kidney transplant for San Diego police officer


Debra Ballard (left) was donating one of her kidneys to SDPD Officer Art Calvert. The operation was scheduled for Feb. 7.

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SAN DIEGO - A heartwarming story that was supposed to end Wednesday with a longtime San Diego Police Department dispatcher donating her kidney to a longtime SDPD officer was derailed at the last minute over concerns the ailing officer's body would reject the new organ.

Art Calvert, who for decades has suffered from renal kidney disease, has been waiting almost two years for a third organ donor. His mother and sister have each already given him a kidney.

During an emotional news conference last week, Calvert and dispatcher Debra Ballard, who worked together for a time as part of the department's Northern Division, talked about the decision. Calvert said he was "just overwhelmed" that Ballard would make such a serious sacrifice for him, and do so with such aplomb.

"She calls me, just as cool as can be, saying, `Hey, I'm a match -- when do you want to do this?," the officer told reporters last week outside downtown SDPD headquarters.

"As a spiritual person, I believe everything happens for a reason," Ballard said at the same news conference. "If I can save his life, why would I not?"

In explaining her weighty decision, Ballard said the nature of dispatchers' duties creates a kind of  "maternal instinct" that makes them "just want to take care" of people.

After deciding she wanted to give a lifesaving gift to the officer, Ballard underwent extensive testing that ultimately deemed her an organ-donor match -- or so they both thought.

But on Tuesday, Calvert took to Facebook to inform friends and family that a last-minute blood test "turned up a positive reaction to my blood and we will not be able to do the transplant due to possible rejection."

"So I am back at square one," Calvert wrote. "I'm a little bummed right now so give me a few days to get my smile back. I will be fine and want to say I'm overwhelmed with all of your posts today. Sorry I let you all down. But I will be back stronger than ever. It's all in God's hands."

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