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By Jason Kaneshiro
DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs
Bruce Finley donated a kidney — not to a family member, or a life-long companion, but to a new friend. It is a sacrifice few choose despite great need. How did he reach this decision? It began on a speedway.
Finley, a program manager under Defense Contract Management Agency Portfolio Management & Business Integration Directorate, said the road to becoming a donor began through a shared interest in IndyCar racing and its legacy.
As Finley tells it, it all started as a casual comment during an agency meeting with a coworker, Egils Vigants, who at the time was the quality assurance director with DCMA Aircraft Propulsion Operations-Pratt & Whitney.
“In laying plans for future meeting dates, he alerted me he had no availability during the entire month of May,” Finley said. “Immediate to my mind, as the only thing I’ve ever known to encompass the entire month, was complete immersion into the run of events leading to the Indy 500 on Memorial Day.”
Finley said he asked if that was the case and Vigants confirmed he was going to the Indy 500. He and his wife had done so for nearly 40 years.
“I continued to ask how he was so involved and found my DCMA co-worker is married to the daughter of a past winner of the Indy 500,” Finley said. “Of course, more intrigued, I continued to ask questions.”
The two began to have more in-depth conversations, which led to a friendship.
“He asked if I’d be interested in joining them,” Finley said. “I jumped at the chance to have such an opportunity intertwined with his wife’s family legacy. An opportunity I wouldn’t have imagined, being invited into a veritable who’s-who of the Indy 500 and (its) traditions.”
The trip provided Finley an insider’s look at people, places and traditions of the race’s inner circle.
“I was overwhelmed with an experience of a lifetime to attach my historical knowledge of the race with so many people, meeting them, and being part of their involvement with ‘the Speedway,’” he said.
The day before the race, Finley and his wife joined the Vigants in attending a breakfast event recognizing local Indianapolis sports writers, drivers, and Indy 500 personalities for awards and honors.
“We found seats at an empty table, not knowing the couple that came to sit with us and who we did not know had been staying at the same house as we were renting space for the weekend,” Finley said. “We introduced ourselves by first name.”
The series of coincidences and chance encounters during the past several weeks piqued Finley’s curiosity as to who they may meet next, so he offered his last name to the couple and asked for their names as well.
“I was stunned to learn the man, Eddie, is the son of a driver who had notable success at the Speedway, but tragically his father lost his life in the race when Eddie and I were both toddlers,” Finley said.
Finley, Eddie and their wives connected that day and felt as though they were lifelong friends.
“The fact Eddie had been suffering late-stage kidney failure never came up in a conversation with me,” Finley said. “It wasn’t until I had gotten home (that I found out).”
Finley said his wife and Eddie’s wife had discussed Eddie’s medical needs.
“I then realized I had noticed he was using some medications, took care to not drink alcohol, but never alluded to his condition,” Finley said. “I began to think about all the Indy 500 experiences I had and how it had all laid the way for me to meet Eddie.”
Finley began to think about what it meant to meet someone in such need, and what to do next.
“I have offered help for many things when people needed assistance, but nothing so significant as what Eddie needed,” said Finley. “Maybe I should apply as a donor, see if I might be a match? Is there a reason I shouldn’t do it? Is there a reason we met and connected so easily as friends?”
Finley prayed about the situation, trying to reconcile if the chain of events that led to their meeting was indeed for a purpose. After a time, he concluded that he was meant to help Eddie. He had many emotions once he resolved to help his new friend.
“There was excitement to find if I was a match, anxiety in seeing if I would pass all the preliminary testing, anticipating the actual day of surgery, and then disappointment that the surgery date took so long to transpire, then feeling dejected for the first date of surgery had to be postponed at the last minute,” said Finley, who admitted the long process was a test of willpower to persevere through the setbacks and remain committed. “There was a reschedule, then another postponement. But finally, feeling satisfied and relieved how it all has worked to his benefit.”
All of this did not transpire in a vacuum, said Philip Schoenig, Finley’s supervisor.
“Bruce let me know that he was a possible donor match and was awaiting to see if he was approved for the donation,” Schoenig said. “When he found out he was approved, he requested the time off for the procedure.”
Schoenig, director of the DCMA Corporate Integration Branch, said Finley is a person who’s always looking to do what’s right.
“In his work, he always does more than what is required to ensure he provides the best for the agency,” said Schoenig, who labeled organ donation as a selfless act that can save and improve the lives of many people. “In this case, Bruce made an informed decision and did what was right for him and his friend.”
Being well-informed and making a conscious decision about organ donation can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need, Schoenig said.
“Organ donation is a critical and life-saving medical procedure that involves the removal of organs or tissues from a donor's body to transplant them into a recipient's body,” Schoenig said.
Finley said that it may seem cruel there are people on waiting lists that might never get a donor organ.
“Eddie would likely have been one of them. People have to believe there is a purpose in our life that we do not always understand,” Finley said. “Suffering is one thing in life no one wants to endure, but suffering is a strong teacher.”
On the other hand, he said, there is always hope.
“We don’t need to act only upon extreme circumstances as a cause to help one another,” Finley said. “No matter how shallow the effort, we should apply ourselves to assure the best outcomes for ourselves and for the welfare of others.”
For more information on organ donation, visit the Health Resources & Services Administration website.
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