SAN DIEGO -- A good police dispatcher can be counted on to help an officer get through the toughest situations, but Debra Ballard is taking that commitment to another level.
Next week, the 24-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department's Communications Division will give up one of her kidneys so a sick colleague will have a new shot at a better, longer life.
SDPD Officer Art Calvert, who for decades has suffered from renal kidney disease, has been waiting almost two years for an organ donor -- his third, including his mother and sister.
He said he was "just overwhelmed'' that Ballard would make such a serious sacrifice for him, and do so with such aplomb.
"Out of the blue, my guardian angel in blue came along," Calvert told reporters outside the police department's Northern Division station. "She tested without even telling me. Next thing I know, she calls me up and says, 'Hey, I'm a match! When do you want to do this?'"
The two have known each other for more than 20 years, but they were more acquaintances than close friends. When Calvert got sick two years ago and needed a kidney transplant, the word was put on through social media. Ballard saw the post on Facebook and something moved her to get tested.
"It just kept nagging at me, and I was like, 'I've got to get there.' Something was pushing me, so I did and I’m like, 'Well, if I’m a match, it’s meant to be.'''
That was more than a year ago, but Calvert has not been healthy enough to undergo the operation. After putting it off several times, the transplant surgery is now scheduled for Feb. 7.
"Debra has given me something that I haven’t had for almost four years-- I’ll get my life back," Calvert said. "I’ve got a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. That’s the hard part -- to just get back to running around with them and being a Dad again."
"As a spiritual person, I believe everything happens for a reason,'' she said. "If I can save his life, why would I not?''