For more than 30 years, Larry Johnson put his personal safety on the line to protect the lives of others through his work as a College Station police officer. Now his daughter, LaRhesa, will make a sacrifice of her own to save her dad's life.
On Wednesday, the two will travel to Temple and go under the knife together so that Johnson can receive one of his daughter's kidneys.
Johnson, 62, retired from the CSPD in 2012 after 34 years of service. Just three years later, he was told he was experiencing renal failure and needed a kidney transplant.
"You have weakness and generally just don't feel well," he said. "You can't taste food and can have a loss of appetite, and just a loss of feeling."
Renal failure is ultimately fatal if not properly treated. After some temporary problems with receiving support from his insurance provider, he was placed on a transplant list soon after his diagnosis. Johnson was told by his doctors that it could take anywhere between five to six years to receive an organ.
"So many people need a transplant and there are so few donors," Johnson said. "Sometimes the wait can take a very long time."
While Johnson was working out issues with his insurance provider, his youngest daughter, 32-year-old LaRhesa Johnson got tested to see if her kidneys would be a match for her father. The Texas A&M graduate who works for the university with the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies was told in February 2018 she was a likely match for her father. LaRhesa Johnson lives in College Station with her 9-year-old daughter -- one of Larry Johnson's 11 grandchildren.
After a week of doctors' committee meetings, LaRhesa Johnson was formally told she would be a perfect candidate to donate a kidney, and she then gathered her mother, Mary, and the rest of the family to surprise her father with her decision.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to help my father," she said. "It's an honor. And, it's something that didn't give me pause."
Johnson said the surprise was overwhelming.
"It wasn't something I'd even thought of," he said. "I was kind of bowled over."
On Wednesday -- just one day after LaRhesa Johnson's 33rd birthday -- the two will go together to a hospital in Temple for the surgery. While recovery time for LaRhesa Johnson is expected to be about six weeks, the road will be longer for her father. He'll need to make trips back to Temple multiple times a week for the next six months in order for doctors to ensure his body is not rejecting the organ.
Before Johnson retired, he had worked as assistant police chief under then-Chief Jeff Capps, who is now deputy city manager with College Station.
"As a police officer, Larry made sure we did things in the proper manner," said Capps. "He also has a servant's heart, and that's the right reason to get into policing, is to help people."
In the case of his daughter, it seems the apple didn't fall too far from the tree.
"There's not much more than a bond between a father and his child," Capps said. "I watched LaRhesa grow up, and she's a very loving and caring person. It didn't surprise me at all that she would do this for Larry."
The cost of the procedure will be about $260,000, and Larry Johnson's medication could run about $17,000. The family's insurance will cover some cost, but LaRhesa Johnson said the family still isn't sure what they'll be able to afford, also taking into account Larry will be traveling frequently to Temple.
The Johnsons have started a benefit for Larry on Facebook simply known as "The Larry J. Johnson Benefit." By the end of January the campaign had collected $2,500. Anyone interested in donating to the campaign can visit http://bit.ly/Johnsonbenefit or call 979-557-2318. The family also have a PayPal set up at http://bit.ly/Johnsonpaypal.