Minden man’s kidney on par with friend’s
July 13, 2017
Childhood friends Ron Bankofier and Jon DeChambeau have a lot in common — including their kidneys.
Bankofier and DeChambeau grew up playing golf, basketball and baseball together in Winnemucca. The two hadn't seen each other in nearly 30 years, but when Bankofier saw DeChambeau on television at a 2015 amateur golf tournament, Bankofier recognized him immediately.
DeChambeau was on a motorized scooter, a far cry from the active young man Bankofier remembered. Bankofier watched as DeChambeau rolled out to congratulate his son, Bryson DeChambeau, the 2015 United States Amateur champion.
"There was no doubt (it was him)," said Bankofier, a financial adviser who works in Gardnerville and lives in Minden with his wife, Daisy.
That chance viewing not only allowed old friends to reconnect, but also provided an opportunity for Bankofier to save DeChambeau's life. DeChambeau had just 3 percent kidney function and needed a transplant. He was on a cadaver waiting list that had an estimated wait time of 5-7 years, and he had yet to find a living match.
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After Bankofier saw DeChambeau on TV, he embarked on a several-month quest to connect with him. Bankofier searched online and through social media, but never found any contact information. After about five months of effort, he finally tracked DeChambeau down, and on Christmas Day 2015 they spent a couple hours catching up on the phone.
DeChambeau, who lives in Clovis, Calif., said he had Type 1 Diabetes and needed a kidney transplant. He spent 12 hours per week on dialysis, and had a partial foot amputation.
The two stayed in contact over the next few months, and in April 2016, "we were reunited at the first hole at Augusta Nationals in Augusta, Ga." as they watched Bryson compete, Bankofier said.
In November, DeChambeau organized a golf fundraiser to benefit the Fresno Nephrology Kidney Foundation, and Bankofier traveled to Fresno for it. In addition to golf, it featured speeches from donors and recipients of kidney transplants.
"As the night went on … I just had this tugging at my heart that I needed to help John," Bankofier said. "I didn't know the odds of me being a match or anything."
Within hours of his decision to find out if he was a match, Bankofier said he was filled with "peacefulness and calmness I'd never experienced before."
After undergoing tests to see if they matched, Bankofier was told by a doctor, "we do not see matches this perfect that often."
He called DeChambeau, who "couldn't believe it."
"When Ron called me, it was emotional shock," DeChambeau said. "Other than say 'Oh, my God, thank you,' I didn't get excited or amped up about it. It was kind of like an emotional shock that this was actually going to happen. When you go through dialysis, you sit in the land of hope but not a lot happens. I see so many people who don't make it through the process, so I've learned not to get excited. When I got excited was the night before we went into surgery."
On March 8 the two underwent surgeries in San Francisco. Bankofier was in the hospital three days. The worst part of the whole procedure was when a nurse snagged her foot on his IV line and ripped it out of his arm on accident, he said.
Because of the surgery, DeChambeau is off dialysis, has lost about 20 pounds of toxins that were stored up in his bloodstream and is "doing great," he said.
For Bankofier, it took several months to recover his energy and mobility, but it was worth it.
"How often in your life do you get to give someone a gift of life?" he said. "It wasn't me making the decision. I was just the instrument … It will give him the opportunity to watch his son chase his dreams."
Bryson DeChambeau is set to play at the Barracuda Championship July 31- Aug. 6 at the Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno.
"Without Bryson I don't know that Ron and I would have ever reconnected," Jon DeChambeau said. "Without Ron being so devoted to it, I don't know that it ever would have happened. The friendship between Ron and I has become brotherly … Never give up hope, you never know who the person is who is going to be able to help you. Keep the hope. Don't be afraid to tell your story. There's somebody out there who can help you."