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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Giving up part of herself
It's easy to donate a kidney when you die. But it's a struggle when you're still alive.
By JUSTIN GEORGE
Published July 31, 2007
Nicki Bradley prays with her twins Khalil, left, and Khalia before their dinner at their home. Nicki donated one of her kidneys to her best friend's husband Alex Robinson. When a therapist asked her why, she said: "Because he needed a kidney, and after praying about it, that's what God told me what to do."
[Times photo: Kathleen Flynn]
RIVERVIEW - She came home from work and asked her husband about his day, holding back the question pressing on her mind.
Nicki Bradley, 38, fixed dinner and bathed her twins. When her husband played solitaire on the computer, Nicki ran a bubble bath and bared her soul to God.
It had started a day earlier in a phone call with her best friend, Denise Robinson, whose husband, Alex, was on dialysis. By the end of the conversation, Nicki had volunteered, "Well, maybe I can give Alex a kidney."
Denise was incredulous, but Nicki was serious enough to call LifeLink, the nonprofit transplant organization, to learn more.
Nicki grew up sharing snacks with playmates, and she once gave up her New York City bus pass to a friend. She had always marked organ donor on her driver's license, an easy pledge fulfilled in death. But here, she was contemplating giving of her living self.
She sat in the bathtub and asked God if it was the right thing to do. She was a mother of three and a wife. Her parents had taught her that choices bring consequences, and life had reinforced the lesson, bringing a daughter before a marriage. What if something went wrong?
She prayed, like always. She speaks to God in the parking lot before she punches in as a financial aid processor at Florida Metropolitan University. She teaches teen choir at St. James AME Church, attends Bible study and trusts God to guide her.
But she questioned him when a car crash killed her 20-year-old niece earlier this year. She wondered why God took a young woman with so much promise. At the memorial service, someone stood up and said there's never a good time for death. God takes us when he wants. In the meantime, he loans us to each other.
She asked God for a "burning bush," a sign. If she was going to give up a kidney, she wanted to be sure.
She climbed out of the bathtub and went to bed. She took her kids to school the next morning, plopped on the couch and prayed again. John 3:16 flashed in her mind.
If Jesus gave his life for her, she thought, what was a kidney?
In the weeks that followed, Nicki learned that 20 percent of donors experience some medical complication and that the surgery hurts the givers more than the receivers.
She listened to her husband's and father's concerns, and even wrote letters to relatives who didn't understand.
She told people, "I can only answer for myself," when they asked why Alex's siblings couldn't make the sacrifice.
She told a psychologist it would be an even more poignant testimony of selfless giving if Alex's body rejected her gift.
Reality hit in the operating room as her pastor held her hand and her family and church members prayed in the halls.
She closed her eyes and woke up nauseated, a 4-inch scar parallel to her belt, missing nothing but a kidney.