Ironton man gives gift of life to stranger

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

For Ironton resident Billy Bruce, the decision to save a near stranger’s life wasn’t a difficult one.

When a co-worker at Sprigg’s Distributing, Madolin Blackwell, mentioned in passing to the sales associate that her brother Tom McMillan was in need of a kidney, he snapped into action.

“I knew he was sick, but I didn’t know the extent of it,” Bruce said. McMillan, who is diabetic, had been in kidney failure and had begun dialysis treatments three times a week.

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“I told her that I’d go get myself checked, and a few months later here we are,” Bruce said. “Everything fell right. Everything happened for a reason.”

What’s most shocking is that Bruce was willing to sacrifice one of his kidney’s for someone that he had only met in passing.

“I felt like, the way everything happened, it was meant to be,” Bruce said. “I was in the right place in the right time.”

Even though Blackwell describes her co-worker as a “nice fella,” she was still shocked by his generosity.

“I tell you, I was just thrilled,” Blackwell said. “It’s one of those things that you never dream that they will be. My brother was on a waiting list on Ohio State and down in Lexington for a kidney, so who would ever think that it would be someone you’d work with. That’s what makes it really remarkable.”

Perhaps the only difficult part of the decision for Bruce was when he considered his three small children, and if his gift of life to McMillian could one day be required by them.

“I thought about it, what if one of them would need one of them down the line because they’re young,” Bruce said. “But that’s something that I couldn’t worry about the future. This was something that’s happening now.”

A few months after he was tested, Bruce was sent to Columbus with McMillan for the surgery. After four hours on the operating table, the job was done and Bruce awoke to see McMillan’s wife and sister standing over him.

“Both of them had tears in their eyes,” Bruce said. “I’ve heard people say ‘Thank you’ before, but I’d never felt it like that. It was amazing.”

It’s been six weeks since the problem-free surgery, and a very grateful McMillan is on top of the world.

“I’m feeling real good,” McMillan said. “There’s no problems yet, knock on wood. I went up for my six-weeks checkup and the doctor said everything is looking really good.”

If there’s one person feeling better than McMillan however, it just might be Bruce.

“It’s great, he’s doing so much better, and I look at him and think that something God gave me is now in him and making such a big difference in his life,” Bruce said. “It’s really special.”