Findlay Chevrolet employees Tony Tonkin and Mark Rolands are best friends, and for good reason.
Tonkin, 34, a native of Flint, Mich., has a new life thanks to Rolands, who serves as the dealership’s sales manager and gave one of his kidneys to his fellow employee during surgery May 28 at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In October 2011, Tonkin was hospitalized and diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome, a group of acute illnesses involving the kidneys and lungs. It destroys the filters in the kidneys and their ability to function. For the next five months, he was doing hemo dialysis where the blood is filtered before returning it to the body. Because of the hospitalization required, he lost his job as an outside sales consultant.
Next up, Tonkin had peritoneal dialysis, a treatment at home that took 12 hours a night for 84 hours each week, and was not only time consuming but restrictive to life activities for 15 months.
As if things couldn’t have gotten worse, doctors in Henderson told Tonkin that he needed a kidney transplant, which was the only cure to his disorder. Enter Rolands, who had met Tonkin at another dealership when Tonkin was trying to buy a truck.
Rolands also offered Tonkin a job selling cars for Findlay Chevrolet not long before his surgery. Dealership General Manager Jamaal McCoy’s motto “Hold the Rope” is on the wall of Findlay Chevrolet, and it has proven to be a great line for Rolands. Hold the rope refers to the bond between friends, teammates and colleagues and their ability to support each other, especially in times of need.
Tonkin and Rolands arrived at Mayo May 27 eager for the four-hour surgery. Fourteen hours after they arrived, Tonkin had received his friend’s kidney.
“When I woke up, I felt like a train had run over me,” Tonkin said, “but I was so happy that the surgery was done. I was so thankful that I had a friend that would do such a gracious and selfless act of saving my life.”
About two months later, Tonkin said he has a new lease of life, a well-paying job and a reason to look forward to the future.
“I feel great now,” said Tonkin, who hasn’t had any complications or concerns after the surgery. “I will take anti-rejection pills for the rest of my life, but that’s sure much easier than 12 hours of dialysis every night.”
Rolands, a 30-year-old native of Lake Mills, Iowa, had visited his friend at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena campus in Henderson. It was while visiting his friend that he studied the possibility of possibly donating one of his kidneys.
“Tony never asked me for help,” Rolands said. “I just determined that it was something I wanted to do. Once I discovered that our kidneys matched, we also had to determine during procedures at Mayo that both were healthy enough for surgery. After everything came back fine, we were scheduled for surgery.”
Luckily, the two also found out that they had the highest percentile match, even greater than siblings.
“As soon as I woke up, I was asked if I had a message for the recipient. I told the nurse to tell Tony that I was in a lot of pain and that if he rejected my kidney, I was going to kick his butt,” Rolands said.
Now, after the difficult surgery, Rolands feels fine for more than one reason.
“I feel very good,” he said. “I have gotten back to exercising and, as a living donor, my life expectancy is as long as it was before I gave my kidney to Tony. The kidney I have now will grow 20 percent larger than before to make up for the kidney that I gave to Tony.”
For more information about living organ donations, call Rolands or Tonkin at Findlay Chevrolet at 702-982-4000.
Findlay Chevrolet, at 6800 S. Torrey Pines Drive, is part of Findlay Automotive Group, which was founded more than 50 years ago by the late Pete Findlay, whose son, Cliff Findlay, now oversees 27 dealerships in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Further information can be found by visiting www.findlaychevy.com.