I-Team: Professional golfer makes sacrifice to save retired firefighter

LAS VEGAS - So often organ donation is heard about when someone dies but there is a need for living organ donors. This story takes a look at how one Las Vegas man, a professional golfer, took a gamble to save the life of a retired firefighter.

Brent Bean went from fighting fires to fighting for his life.

"I was very active. I was a firefighter here for 30 years," said retired firefighter Brent Bean.

Shortly after he retired from Clark County in 2011, Bean's kidney disease started causing kidney failure. Nightly dialysis kept him alive while he waited for a transplant.

"I'm basically a slave to that machine."

Right now in Nevada, nearly 190 people are on the waiting list for a kidney, but doctors say a living donor is always the better option.

"How do you ask for a kidney? I mean, it's just, you don't really think about that until you get put into that situation and it's just not something that most people are comfortable with," Bean said.

But he didn't have to ask anyone.

"I really feel like it's the right thing to do," said Jon Scolari, a professional golfer.

Scolari, who would become his future son-in-law, volunteered to be his donor.

"I think he was pretty excited," he said. "This is like a dream come true for him. You know, this is what he needs. This is what he needs to live a healthy life and to be able to live a normal life."

But for Scolari, it would be a risk to his career.

"When I thought through taking a kidney out of a professional golfer, I was pretty careful to be realistic to say I have no idea what it'll do to your game," said Dr. John Ham, University Medical Center.

On the final visit to UMC with Doctor Ham before the surgery, there was a moment of levity and then seriousness.

"I know I'm going to miss golf. Like that's my life. It's what I do everyday of my life, so I know I'm ging to miss it but you know sometimes breaks are needed, you know I'll get back to it when I'm supposed to and hopefully pick it right back up and keep going," Scolari said.

"Well, I think a lot of people can be heroes in the moment if they're put in the situation," Bean said. "He had a long time to think about it and that's a true hero."

They were ready. So was Ashley, Bean's daughter and Scholari's now wife.

"It's hard to see someone you love so sick," she said. "I just kind of felt in my heart that if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. I just can't wait to see, you know, the old him back." 

The day of the surgery arrived and Bean admitted to feeling emotional. 

"I just kind of felt in my heart that if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. I just can't wait to see, you know, the old him back." 

Eight weeks later. Bean was playing guitar.

"It's just amazing," he said. "You know, cause a few years ago, I didn't expect to live a long time." 

Scolari's doing well, too.

"It's the most amazing feeling after, especially living with him and seeing how he's doing and how he's progressed," he said.

Scolari is gradually getting back to golf. He even won a tournament against his friends and achieved a Double Eagle, a golf milestone he hadn't reached before.

Bean is using another term, though.

"What Jon did for me is he gave me a Mulligan. Do you know what a Mulligan is? That's a do-over, basically when you hit a really bad shot and you get to do it over. That's what he gave me."

Bean and Scolari say they're sharing their story to inspire others to become living donors. Some people die waiting for organs.

UMC's Living Kidney Donation Info.

Doctor John Ham at UMC says he performs on average 64 kidney transplants a year. There are risks to being a living donor, but he says complications are rare.

SIDENOTE: Reporter Vanessa Murphy's mother suffered from kidney disease and passed away in June 2017 due to complications from another condition. A few years earlier, her cousin generously donated a kidney which gave her mother more time with their family.

To learn more about UMC's Living Kidney Donation go here.

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