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EATON RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Dean Peters and Don Wyckoff met in eighth grade.
"He was a country boy and I was from the city," Wyckoff, 69, told the Lansing State Journal ( http://on.lsj.com/1bQAg3Q ). "I remember playing with him in eighth-grade basketball. That's how it started."
In high school, the two men were close friends. They double dated.
"He taught me how to dance," confessed Peters, 70.
"And I surely wasn't a dancer," Wyckoff said.
When Peters got married in 1965 Wyckoff served as the best man at his wedding. A year later at Wyckoff's wedding Peters was his.
The two couples lived just one house away from one another for several years.
Today, they attend the same church. They are married to two women who were childhood friends themselves.
And Wyckoff has one of Peters' kidneys, transplanted in January.
Neither of them denies the significance of that gift, but there was no doubt in Peters' mind that one of his kidneys would go to Wyckoff.
"He's my friend," said Peters, simply.
In half a century, the only significant time the men have spent apart was when Wyckoff was drafted into the Army.
"The Army took us away for a year and a half," said Wyckoff. "But they came to visit us when I was stationed in Alabama."
He returned afterward to work as a graphic designer and creative director for the state, retiring after 30 years. Peters became a tool maker and owned a company in Lansing before retirement.
Peters and his wife Carleen had two children. Wyckoff and his wife Carolyn did too. The families were close and in 1994 Wyckoff's daughter Angela married Peters' son Jamie. He passed away at age 28 after a lengthy battle with leukemia.
The friends say their lives are simply interwoven.
"I've never tried to analyze it," said Peters. "Our wives are friends and over the years a lot of this came about because of our faith and that connection. It brought us together, and we've always been there for each other."
Carolyn Wyckoff says Dean and Carleen Peters are their "no matter what" friends.
At age 30 when Wyckoff found himself hospitalized with kidney failure Dean Peters was the only person she called to share the news with.
"He went up to the hospital to see Don," said Carolyn.
The condition shouldn't have been a complete surprise. Wyckoff's mother died of kidney failure in her 60s. Doctors caught his condition during a hospital stay after a tonsillectomy.
"They kept me in the hospital and started testing me, and my kidneys started failing," said Wyckoff.
After a month in and out of the hospital, he went home. "They didn't really treat me in any particular way," said Wyckoff. "It started reversing back and things got better."
Eventually, doctors told him that the kidney failure was the result of an adverse drug reaction. Wyckoff would go 38 years before his kidneys faltered again two years ago.
"They put me on steroids," he said. "I was getting weaker and weaker. I went on for about a year trying to be treated. They made me aware that it was a long shot, going back to normal without a transplant or dialysis."
Don and Carolyn Wyckoff eventually attended a seminar aimed at educating people about kidney transplants.
Patients are placed on a transplant list but finding a donor quickly is largely up to the individual.
"Believe it or not, they actually give you these little business cards and you go hand them out," said Wyckoff. "Like, I could come up to you and say, 'Want to donate a kidney?' You do it yourself."
And, for that reason, he didn't think he was going to get a transplant.
"I never asked anybody," said Wyckoff. "I couldn't do it."
Dean and Carleen Peters didn't wait to be asked. They both called the number on the card. Peters passed the initial screening.
"I knew he was hurting," said Peters. "I saw this struggle."
Everything lined up. Both men had the same blood type and further testing confirmed that Peters was a match for a transplant.
Wyckoff and Peters were playing in the same local golf tournament when he got that news.
"I was just sitting in a golf cart in the woods when he called me," said Wyckoff.
"I was playing golf somewhere else on the course," said Peters.
"We both started balling," said Wyckoff. He teared up at the memory. "It's hard to explain unless you've been through it. It's very humbling. I would never go out and ask for a kidney. It was God sent."
Carleen Peters believes the same.
"We were friends and there was no quitting that friendship but God has interwoven himself in this," she said. "Our families will always be connected."
The transplant was performed at University of Michigan Hospital on Jan. 23, Peters' 70th birthday.
"I was being prepped and they hadn't started prepping him yet, so he came in to see me," said Peters, of that day. "We talked. He said, 'See ya on the other side.'"
Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com
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