Due to a shoulder injury, Willie needed to take anti-inflammatory medications for several years. Eventually, his pharmacist became concerned and urged him to have a physical exam before continuing with those medications.
Willie visited his doctor on July 4, 2003, and an exam revealed that both of his kidneys were failing as a result of side effects from the anti-inflammatory drugs. Willie immediately began home kidney dialysis and continued this for more than a year. He then received dialysis in the hospital for the next three years and was eventually placed on a transplant list.
Willie waited 13 months and on November 13, 2006, he received the news that there was a potential match for him in Toledo. Doctors fought valiantly to save Roxanne, a young woman who had suffered a brain aneurysm, but when those efforts failed, her family chose to donate her organs.
She and Willie were a match. A staunch advocate for donation, Willie says, "You're giving someone a second chance. It's a generous gift and it's the best thing in the world."