Mark Vines is an American tennis player who has been lucky enough to play in singles and doubles tournaments his entire life. Mark has been a friend of Body Helix for almost 12 years, knowing founder Fred Robinson both personally and competitively. First introduced to Body Helix compression sleeves at a national tennis tournament, he noted the products really work. “They migrate around my body for sure,” he said with a laugh.” He has worn Body Helix compression sleeves on his calf, elbow, thigh, arm, and knee.
In 2002, Mark moved to Naples, FL, where he met a friend and fellow tennis player, Greg. The two developed a strong friendship both on and off the court. They were always at family dinners, neighborhood Santa parties, Super Bowl parties, etc. When Mark moved back to Virginia, his home state, he made it a point to stay connected with Greg. Mark knew there was a reason the pair stayed in touch, but that reason wouldn’t reveal itself until many years later.
Mark and his wife relocated back to Naples sometime later, and it was last summer when Mark learned that Greg’s youngest daughter, Shelby, needed a new kidney as soon as possible or she could die. Greg’s family found out when she was tested for an earache that an autoimmune disease had attacked her kidneys. Typically, people with kidney failure can function at 60%. At that time, though, Shelby’s kidney was functioning at 35%. Mark asked what he could do and Greg told him they needed to quickly find a donor. Mark immediately replied, “I’ll do it.”
While Greg didn’t necessarily think Mark was serious, it quickly became evident he most certainly was. Mark said something had been missing from his life and he felt like he needed to do more. Mark would have to endure a battery of tests – both physical and psychological. While Mark was healthy, the physicians were wary of a 60-year-old kidney donation to a 20-year-old.
As the tests continued, though, they found out Mark’s kidney was functioning at 350% that of a normal kidney. Next, they had to go through the matching donor’s program, where the chances of Mark being a match were very slim. But he knew he wanted to do this for his closest friends’ daughter. Shelby, a student at Southern Methodist University (SMU), was working hard, studying, and trying to make arrangements to receive a kidney as fast as possible. On March 13th of 2020, they flew to Dallas, even with COVID restrictions and the impending government shutdowns. They went through an entire day of testing to find that Mark was a perfect match for Shelby. No one in Shelby’s family was a perfect match like Mark.
About three months later, due to many COVID-related delays, the kidney transplant was a success. What’s even more perfect, though, is that the three days after the transplant, local hospitals were once again closed for surgeries due to the coronavirus shutdowns. The transplant happened, just in time. “It truly shows that it was meant to be,” Mark said. “I’ve known this little girl since she was three. I had no hesitations, never any regret, and really no pain at all.”
Mark recently spoke with Shelby to celebrate the three month anniversary of the transplant. She is happily back at school (virtually, though, since her donor status leaves her immunocompromised) and can finally eat what she wants and exercise again.
Before the transplant, Shelby was about one month away from being on dialysis. It would likely have been a six-year wait for a match on the donor list. Typically, though, kidneys only last about five years, even with dialysis.
While Shelby received a new kidney, Mark received a new nickname. He is now affectionally referred to as the “Donor Dude.” Mark says that after a month off from tennis, he feels like he is ready to compete again. He is now a huge advocate for organ donation and will soon donate bone marrow and pieces of his liver. He says he was lucky to have such a healthy recovery and now “My kidney will outlive me.”
To learn more about organ donation, visit Organdonor.gov.