|Findlay Chevrolet sales consultant Tony Tonkin, left, has a new lease on life thanks to the fact that dealership Business Development Manager Mark Rolands provided a healthy kidney to his ill friend.
By Mike Henle
LAS VEGAS -- Findlay Chevrolet employees Tony Tonkin and Mark Rolands are best friends; and for good reason.
The 34 year-old Tonkin, a native of Flint, Mich., has a new life thanks to Rolands, who serves as the dealership’s sales manage; and also gave one of his kidneys to his fellow employee during surgery May 28 at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
It was in October of 2011 that Tonkin was hospitalized and diagnosed with Good Pastures Syndrome, a rare auto immune disease that 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 was to endure 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.
Ironically, Rolands also offered Tonkin a job selling cars for Findlay Chevrolet not long before the eventual surgery. Dealership General Manager Jamaal McCoy’s saying “Hold the Rope” is on the wall of Findlay Chevrolet, and it has proven a great line for Rolands.
Tonkin and Rolands arrived at Mayo on May 27 both eager for the four-hour surgery. Fourteen hours after they had 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 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 twelve hours of dialysis every night.”
Rolands, a 30 year-old native of Lake Mills, Iowa, had visited his friend at St. Rose Sienna Hospital 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,” said Rolands. “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 were both healthy enough for surgery. After everything came back fine, we were scheduled for surgery.”
Luckily, the two also found out that the pair had the highest percentile match; even more so than siblings.
“As soon as I woke up, I was asked if I had a message for the recipient,” recalled Rolands. “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.”
Even after what was difficult surgery, Rolands feels fine for more reasons that one.
“I feel very good,” said Rolands. “I have gotten back to exercising and as 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.”
Further information about Living Organ Donations can be found by calling either Rolands or Tonkin at Findlay Chevrolet at 702-982-4000.
Findlay Chevrolet, which is situated at 6800 S. Torrey Pines south of the I-215 beltway east of Rainbow Boulevard, is part of Findlay Automotive Group founded more than 50 years ago by the late Pete Findlay, whose son, Cliff, now oversees 27 dealerships in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.
Further information can be found by visiting www.findlaychevy.com.