Niagara Gazette

Features

April 14, 2014

Vet wins 'life lottery' with new kidney

Niagara Falls veteran has second chance with new kidney

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — In James Harris’ case, the only way to get him and his brother to Pittsburgh inside the window of opportunity was with a limousine and private jet. 

“The travel department (at the hospital) and all the people involved really pulled this together so that when the veterans get the call, its not going to be our end letting them down,” she said.

“There’s so much that has to go right that we can’t control, I’m thrilled that everything went according to plan,” she said recently about Harris’ transplant through the VA National Transplant Program, which has been active since 1962 in transplant centers across the country. “Whatever hitch that was going to happen wasn’t going to happen on our end.”

The “hitchless” transplant has resulted in a new life for the former U.S. Army platoon leader, who served near the demilitarized zone in South Korea during the Vietnam War. 

The Woodlawn Avenue resident has been on life-sustaining kidney dialysis for the last three years, and underwent — without complaint, according to family — the time-consuming, three-day-a-week treatment that mechanically filtered his system.  All the while, he worked full-time as a truck driver and fume operator at Globe Metallurgic.

His girlfriend, Carla Pacitti, a cook for Niagara Hospice who has stood by his side throughout the ordeal, is grateful for James’s good luck.  

“I feel like he has won the New York life lottery,” she said, smiling at her partner of 17 years.

On a recent afternoon, just days after the surgery, Harris and Pacitti were surrounded in their Woodlawn Avenue home by several of Harris’ eight siblings and nieces and nephews.   

James’ sister, Betty Bibbs, is certain that he received the kidney because he went with her to church days before he got the call that an organ was available. During the service, two church leaders asked James to come to the front of the church and they told him “God has something good for you,” she recalled.

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