According to Marana resident Alex Tisch, if you die with two kidneys, you didn’t do doing something right in life.
Luckily for him – and even more fortuitous for his longtime friend and fellow police officer, Mo Othic – the 33-year-old Tisch can now check kidney donation off his life’s checklist.
And Othic, who was born with one kidney, can now continue to lead a normal life.
Until recently, Othic had never experienced any problems living with a lone kidney, but six months ago, after experiencing pain and fatigue, doctors revealed the organ was failing. If no match was found, he would have to go on dialysis, and eventually, he would die.
“I was in shock,” said Othic, a husband, father, and 13-year police veteran. “Once they told me that, I understood what it could mean.”
Tisch went through similar emotions when learning of Othic’s condition. He and Othic have been friends since high school. Later in life, it was Othic who helped carve Tisch’s career path by encouraging him to pursue a position with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department like he had three years prior. Othic even pinned Tisch’s badge on after he graduated the police academy in 2003.
So, when Tisch heard the bad news, a flurry of emotions came along with it.
“You go through the steps,” he said. “First, you’re angry about it. Then you look for someone to blame, and then you wonder how you can fix it.”
It was that last part that most resonated with Tisch though.
“How to fix it.”
After discovering he was the same blood type as Othic, Tisch underwent testing and was told his genetics were similar enough to make for a successful kidney transplant. Though several other officers had also volunteered for the transplant, Tisch was the best first and best match.
“At that point, I thought, ‘I have to do this,’” Tisch said.
Tisch was made aware of the risks that came with the transplant. Those risks weighed on Othic.
“My concern was for him and his family,” said Othic. “I wanted to make sure he and his family were good with it. I didn’t want to put any pressure on him.”
Othic may not have put pressure on Tisch. The pressure Tisch felt came from the volatile situation itself.
“Whenever I was asked if I felt pressured – yeah, I felt pressured – I don’t want my friend to die,” said Tisch.
Still, the choice wasn’t an easy one, as a surgery-gone-wrong could kill Tisch or Othic. Tisch was given numerous opportunities by counselors and the surgeon to back out of the transplant.
While he admits he was scared, there was only one true option.
“I put everything into the equation,” said Tisch. “I thought of the worst possible scenario, and I asked myself if that scenario would still be better than losing a friend, and his wife and kids being without a dad. Is it worse than having the capability to do something and doing nothing?”
For Tisch, the answer was no. He told Othic he was ready to move forward with the transplant, which was then scheduled for Dec. 18, six months after Othic’s initial symptoms.
Fortunately for both men, any preconceived doubt or troubling thoughts subsided after a successful surgery in which Tisch’s kidney began to work immediately in Othic’s body.
“I broke down in tears,” said Tisch after hearing the news. “All the steps had finally come together.”
Doctors gave Tisch a six-week recovery period, and Othic a six-month recovery timeframe.
Othic, set to return to full-time work in June, is becoming increasingly active and said his energy level is higher than ever. He is en route to a full recovery.
“I can’t express in words what it means to me,” he said. “This has made us even closer. I thank him every time I talk to him.”
For Tisch, the reward comes not from the recognition, but from the deed itself.
“The sense of joy, the good feelings – I’ve never experienced a feeling like this. I hung myself out there and I tried, and even though I get nothing back in return, I feel better than I ever have about myself.”