‘Perfect stranger’ awarded for life-saving gift

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2018

 

Suffolk Police Officer Josie Hall went beyond the call of duty in March to give 14-year-old Ian Dennis one of her kidneys — and a fighting chance.

Hall was awarded the Life Saving Award at the Suffolk City Council meeting on May 2 for her outstanding generosity, with her fellow officers, her husband — Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Hall — and their 4-year-old son, Cody, in attendance.

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“What a gift someone can give to a perfect stranger,” Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett said at the presentation. “They didn’t know each other, and she didn’t know the family. They were perfect strangers, and she gives one of her kidneys to help him so he can grow up and have a life.”

Hall’s surgery was performed on March 27, and Ian received her kidney shortly afterwards. The mother of three returned to duty on Wednesday, humbled by the praise and thankful for the opportunity to help Ian.

Ian Dennis, 14, and his father Chris Dennis beside the collection of model planes, a hobby for the teenager who received a kidney from Suffolk Police Officer Josie Hall.

“God had put this in the right place and time,” Hall said. “My husband and I talked about it, and we knew that it was worth the risk to follow through with this for Ian and his family.”

Ian was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease — also known as end stage renal disease — in May 2017. One of his kidneys was in total shutdown, while the other was functioning at just 6 percent, his mother, Kate Dennis, told the Suffolk News-Herald in June 2017.

Because of a congenital kidney defect, his kidneys were too small for his age, his mother said. His kidneys were akin to those of a 3-month-old to 1-year-old child.

The family had traveled to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk three times a week in the past year for four-hour hemodialysis treatments via a central IV line that was surgically implanted. Now his treatments are limited to semi-monthly checkups and about a dozen pills daily.

“It’s worth it, compared to sitting in a chair fours a day, three days a week,” Ian said about the pills.

The two families enjoyed pizza and wings when they met for the first time at Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Department Chaplain Martin Lee’s residence the weekend before the surgery. The families share yet another bond in public service, as Ian’s father, Chris Dennis, is a veteran of the Chesapeake Fire Department.

“It’s extremely awesome that a police officer helped a firefighter,” Kate Dennis said.

Ian and his parents were both grateful and nearly speechless by Hall’s incredible donation.

“She saved my son’s life, what can we say,” Kate Dennis asked.

“’Thank you’ doesn’t seem to quite cover it,” Chris Dennis added.

Now cleared for heavier lifting, Ian plans to put on his backpack and go back to Forest Glen Middle School this Monday to reunite with his friends. He also has model airplane competitions to look forward to later this year.

His mother explained that Ian is actually one of the lucky ones. They’ve seen more than a dozen other children at each CHKD visit either waiting for a kidney transplant, or that are back on dialysis after complications with their new kidneys.

More than 35 people had tested negative as matches for Ian before Hall came along, and there are children as young as 18 months old still waiting for the opportunity, Kate Dennis said.

“It took a stranger for us, and it could take a stranger for them,” she said.

Visit donatelifevirginia.org for more information on making a life-saving donation.