From the PGA
Iowa PGA Professional Andy Devine and his Kidney Donor, Doug Christensen, celebrated a Special Anniversary
By Bob Denney, PGA Historian
On April 18, PGA Life Member Andy Devine met Doug Christensen for one of the most significant “social distancing” moments of the pandemic. The two friends stood the required six feet apart outside Christensen’s garage in Waterloo, Iowa, and raised a bottle of beer in toast to each another.
It was one year to the day that Christensen donated one of his kidneys to Devine, the former PGA Head Professional at Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course in Waterloo.
“I don’t know, Doug, but with your kidney, beer tastes a lot better now,” joked Devine.
After the 2018 golf season, Devine – a diabetic for 20 years— had a sobering meeting with his doctor, who said, “I have brought you as far as I could take you. You need to start dialysis.” Devine began treatments that October, and in January 2019, Christensen agreed to be his kidney donor.
Devine, 65 and Christensen, 66, a resident of nearby Cedar Falls, and a salesman for Midwest Wheel Company – had been friends since meeting more than two years earlier on a golf trip with buddies. On April 18, 2019, the kidney transplant was performed at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City.
“It doesn’t seem like it has been that long,” said Christensen. “I remember that day so vividly, even in the operating room. It went fast. I remember being asked to walk down a hall to visit Andy’s room.”
Since then, both men have heard from strangers with questions about kidney donation. “I have had numerous conversations with people,” said Devine. “I tell them, ‘Please don’t drop the ball and please continue pursuing it. I was there, I know what it was like.’ “I always tell people to appreciate what you have. When you don’t have it anymore, you’re going to miss it.”
What motivated Christensen to help his friend?
“I believe in our Lord, and I felt I was getting some guidance from Him. And, as I have some Irish in me when I get an idea in my head, I get very stubborn or determined to get that accomplished.”
The pandemic was especially tough on Devine, who, for the first time since he was 10 years old, had to spend springtime in self-quarantine.
“The grass is so green. It’s tough to stay in my own yard,“ he said. “I had my one-year checkup and I was asked to do it over the phone. The day before, I played nine holes. I asked my doctor if it was OK for me to golf. He said, ‘You need to stay away from people and all the other guidelines.’ He added, ‘You’ve been given a great gift. You’re not just taking care of yourself for yourself, you take care of yourself for your donor.’ It really made you think. It’s not just about you now, but also about people who cared about you. I’ve been going for walks since then, and that’s it.”
Their special anniversary was missing one crucial element.
“There was no golf involved,” said Christensen. “We have something more to celebrate after this [health crisis] ends.”