Tampa, FL – A retired Broward County sheriff’s deputy was given a new lease on life after a Jupiter police officer he’d never met selflessly donated his kidney to save him.
Jupiter Police Officer Guy Kitchens, 39, said he was scrolling through his email in August of 2021 when he came upon a message that had been sent out to various law enforcement agencies throughout the nation, WPBF reported.
The email pertained to retired Broward County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Cooper, who had been suffering from renal failure for approximately one year.
He was in desperate need of a kidney in order to survive, WPBF reported.
“I read it. And typically, you just move through,” explained Officer Kitchens, who had never met Deputy Cooper. “But, for some reason, I don’t know if it was a God thing or what, but, for some reason, I kept going back to it.”
As the nine-year law enforcement veteran contemplated the email in the days that followed, he also thought about his motivations for becoming a police officer in the first place.
“The main reason I became a cop is I wanted to change lives, especially, I wanted to save lives,” Officer Kitchens told WPTV.
“To me, a life is a life, right?” he told WPBF. “If it needs saving, that’s what we swore to do, off duty or on duty.”
“One of my biggest motivations was I knew that Jeff has been going through pain, a lot of pain for a while,” he added, according to WPTV. “So, in my head, I’ll go through a little bit of pain now and he can have the rest of his life.”
“In my life, if something was meant to be, God always flung the doors open and none of these were shut, so I was pretty sure I was supposed to do this,” Officer Kitchens recalled.
While Officer Kitchens was contemplating his next move, retired Deputy Cooper was facing the grim reality of his situation.
“It’s extremely depressing,” Cooper told WPTV. “It’s the not knowing that’s really hard.”
When he received the call that a donor had come forward and was a perfect match, he was dumbfounded.
“I’m like, ‘Really?!?’” he told WPBF. “I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.”
Privacy laws barred Cooper from receiving any information about his donor prior to the transplant surgery.
“To come forward and save the life of a complete stranger, I’m just so blown away by the whole thing,” Cooper said.
The two veteran law enforcement officers were taken into surgery at Largo Medical Center in Tampa on Feb. 3, WPBF reported.
Six hours later, Officer Kitchen’s kidney was giving retired Deputy Cooper’s body a new lease on life, according to WPTV.
The following day, Cooper learned that the stranger who gave so selflessly of himself was a fellow law enforcement officer, WPBF reported.
They met for the first time at the hospital.
“Thank you,” Cooper said as Officer Kitchens rolled into his room in a wheelchair, according to WPBF. “How do you say…”
“You don’t have to say it,” Officer Kitchens told him.
The two men became fast friends and said they are now bonded for life.
They speak on a daily basis and consider one another as brothers.
“The gift of life is precious…I can’t say enough about Guy,” Cooper told WPBF. “To have my life again – there are no words.”
He described Officer Kitchens as his “living angel,” WPTV reported.
“As I told him, I’ve got an older brother now,” Officer Kitchens told WPBF. “So, I told him I expect a really good Christmas gift.”
Officer Kitchens has since returned to duty in a limited capacity, the Jupiter Police Department (JPD) said in a Facebook post.
Jupiter Interim Town Manager Frank Kitzerow presented him with the Town Manager Award as a gesture of appreciation for his generosity.
“We cannot be more proud of Officer Kitchens and his selflessness to help a stranger in need,” the JPD said. “He is a hero both on-duty and off-duty!”