Joel Boles and Haywood Davis were best of friends back in the 1980s when they attended Vidalia High School.
Boles was a freshman while Davis was a senior.
"We rode the strip (Carter Street) quite a bit," Boles said.
After Davis graduatedand went to work in the oil field, the two lost touch, but were re-united through Facebook years later. It was through Facebook that Boles learned Haywood's father, James "Hoss" Davis, was sick and eventually died on January 10 of this year.
"We became close again and now we are brothers," Boles said.
The soon-to-be 53-year-old Boles attended the funeral and learned that Haywood was planning on giving his father his kidney.
"He had lost kidney function and was too sick and his age kept that from happening," said Davis of his dad, who was 79 at the time of his death. "But I was determined to give it to somebody."
The 56-year-old Haywood did not have to look far.
"I saw on Facebook that his dad was sick and I've kept up with him." Boles said. "His dad passed away and I went to the funeral to meet him there."
Following an auto accident in Monroe in 2000 in which his leg was crushed and ultimately amputated, Boles' has had to undergo 18 surgeries.
"I've known for three or four years my kidney was in bad shape," Boles said. "I was told at one point it was at 25 percent capacity.
On Christmas Eve of 2017, Boles was sick with a fever of 103. His wife, Millie, talked him into going to the doctor.
"Once I got the flu that pretty much did it for my kidney," Boles said. "The doctor told me it had stopped functioning. I started on dialysis five days a week. It made me tired all the time."
Davis made the comment to Boles that he would like to give him his kidney. "Joel called me later and asked if I was serious," Davis said. "I told him I was like Mr. Haney on Green Acres, I had what he needed. I had seen what my dad went through and I was blessed to live a healthy life. My wife (Yolanda) was scared about it and she prayed over it. I never had any fear or anxiety. I was ready to get it done."
Davis and Boles were tested at Tulane Medical School.
"The easiest decision I’ve ever made was to give this man a kidney," said Davis, who works for Yellow Rock LLC, a privately held oil and gas company focusing on remaining potential in the Sulfur Mines Field in Sulfur Louisiana. Todd Bertolet and John Cox are independent geologists and principals.
"Joel has inspired me for a long time because of his courage, perseverance and strength," Davis said. "Anyone who knows Joel knows how much he has been through, yet he never complains or stops smiling. I knew from the moment we became friends in high school that he was special. I love you brother and I am so blessed that you are my friend and family."
Joel and wife, Milly, were at a hospital in Ohio with their daughter, Emily, who was being diagnosed for recurring migraine headaches.
"I was on dialysis up there when I got the call that we were a match," Joel said. "I was hooked up so i couldn't jump up and down."
Boles said a girl actually offered her kidney afterwards, but doctors told her that Haywood was further along and she could be used as a back-up. Joel received Haywood's kidney on Wednesday, July 1 at Tulane Medical Center.
"I can't express in words how grateful I am," Boles said. "It is a humbling experience for somebody to offer you a body part that basically saved my life. Haywood has been my biggest cheerleader by his attitude. He has made this so much easier."
Haywood went home a day after the operation and was back at work two days later.
"I've had 18 surgeries and this was one of the most simplest," said Boles, who returned home five days after the surgery. "My daughter told me my face had looked ashen before, but all my color was back. If I had not experienced this, I would not believe it."
"I showed up at work that next Monday and everyone asked me if the operation was cancelled," Davis said. "They made me wait until I had a doctor's excuse. It really wasn't painful. I still can't get over how easy it was."
Boles, who was an all-district lineman and honorable mention All-State at Vidalia High his senior year of 1984, served as a volunteer coach at Beekman Charter School in Bastrop where his family lives.
"I would love to get into teaching," said Boles, who played football at ULM and earned a teaching degree. "I' m lucky in that I have such a great support system with my parents (Jim and Guylin), Milly and Emily."
Boles said he is doing great and getting better and better.
"God had his hand all over this," he said. "And I've become a big proponent of organ donation. One of my goals is to let everyone know about it. Me and Haywood could be poster children for it because it was so easy and life-changing."