A 78-year-old Army veteran in the fight of his life has been offered help from a younger brother in arms he met at one of the gates coming into Redstone Arsenal.
Gordon Keene of Huntsville, who lost one kidney to cancer over 10 years ago, now has stage four kidney disease in his right kidney and needs a transplant as soon as possible.
Eric Poole of Madison, 37, has offered to be the donor.
The two met around 10 years ago when Keene, a retired sergeant first class and former youth sports director and logistician on post, was entering the Arsenal via a gate and noticed the last name tag on the guard’s uniform: Poole.
Small world. Decades earlier, Keene was stationed at an ordnance unit with the young man’s uncle, Kim Poole.
The two became friendly at the gate, exchanging small bits of news when they saw each other.
Keene, whose left kidney was removed in 2010, learned a few months ago that his right kidney was failing.
Keene’s wife Irma, who had also become friendly with Poole at the gate, mentioned to him that her husband was in the market for a new kidney.
Poole immediately offered to be the donor.
“I didn’t hesitate,” said Poole, who served as an infantryman and in supplies during his 12 years in the Army, until he was medically discharged in 2017. “I said, ‘if he needs one (a kidney), I’d be more than happy to do it.’”
Poole has O-negative blood and is considered a universal donor. The two have yet to undergo antibody testing for the surgery which will take place at the University of Alabama in Birmingham if the pretesting all goes according to plan.
Both men will need to return to Birmingham weekly, Poole for about six to seven months and Keene for a year, after the transplant.
Poole will use his own personal leave along with leave that is donated by other Arsenal employees who decide to get involved.
Keene has also established the “Gordon D. Keene Kidney Transplant Fund” at Redstone Federal Credit Union and said any donations that are received will offset the cost of Poole’s time off work and travel, lodging and meal costs for both men.
Poole, a veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who calls Keene by the nickname “Sarge,” has several reasons for donating his kidney. At the top of his list is the brotherhood and shared experience of being a Soldier.
“He’s a Vietnam veteran,” Poole said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys.”
Keene, who has four children and seven grandchildren, looks forward to feeling better. Due to his condition, “I’m always cold. I’m always tired,” he said.
Poole, a history buff and Alabama football fan who enjoys looking for artifacts and relics, has had multiple ankle surgeries and said he has “no quarrels” with another surgery.
The kidney donation is “a gift from God,” Keene said. “It’s one of the most honorable, loving things a person could do.”