Answering To A Higher Authority
The Josh Williams Memorial Award is given in memory of Josh Williams, a graduate of the McDowell Technical Community College BLET program. Williams was killed February 1, 2007 while responding to an emergency call for assistance from a McDowell County Sheriff’s Deputy. For his selflessness and dedication, Christopher D. Greene was named this year’s recipient. Special Agent Stacy Buff of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles presented the award to Greene.
Story by Michael Lavender, Director of External Relations
Photos by John Rountree, Photography Instructor
For almost seven years, Chris Greene carried around a big secret, a secret not even his closest classmates knew as they trained together at McDowell Technical Community College. Almost every day for the last nine months, they sweated through physical training, sat through lectures, spent boxes of ammunition at the firing range, suffered aches and pains in armed and unarmed self-defense, and helped each other study rules of criminal procedure, evidence collection and other investigative techniques.
Basic law enforcement training (also known as “BLET”) is a rigorous and intense program, and many of the students in the program become close friends. But not once during the year did Greene’s new friends, other classmates or instructors get any indication that he was harboring such a big secret. But when they found out, it was such a bombshell that they felt they had to do something about it.
And that they did.
It was just before graduation that Greene’s secret got out. One of the BLET Instructors approached Program Director Wayne Edwards to tell him that a mutual acquaintance and former law enforcement colleague from neighboring Burke County had sent greetings to Edwards and had inquired about one of their students, the secretive Mr. Greene.
The acquaintance, Jim Smith, had quite a tale to tell about Mr. Greene—the kind of tale they make movies about. About 11 years ago, Smith was a Lieutenant Detective with the Burke County Sheriff’s Department in Morganton, NC when his health became so poor that he had to retire from law enforcement service and go on kidney dialysis almost five hours a day, three days per week.
It was at Fresenius Medical Care in Morganton, where he received dialysis, that Smith later met Greene, who became a patient care technician at the center in 2001. And it was there that Greene struck up a friendship with Smith that eventually led to the actions he would later try to conceal.
Greene’s sister-in-law was Director of Nursing at Fresenius and had told Smith that as his health continued to decline she would try to help him get a kidney. But given the nature of the kidney transplant process, a promise to help was certainly no guarantee that he would get a kidney. When Smith’s name came up in after-dinner conversation at her home one evening, Greene’s sister-in-law was a bit shocked, but encouraged, at the solution Greene offered.
“I’ll give him a kidney,” Greene said. And there began the incredible act of humanity that the ever-so humble Mr. Greene would try to conceal. “I had prayed about it,” he said, “and I felt like that was what the Lord wanted me to do. “ While he knew that he had the right blood type to match Smith’s, he didn’t know if all of the other criteria would match. But he approached Smith the next day and made the offer.
And on December 19, 2002, after several weeks of successful testing and frequent trips to NC Baptist Hospital in Winston- Salem, NC, Greene did indeed donate one of his kidneys to the ailing Mr. Smith. “It was God who fixed this all up,” said Smith. “He had to pick a man who was physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally strong enough to handle this kind of thing, and he picked the right guy.”
Greene stayed in the hospital longer than Smith did, and even though Greene left the hospital on Christmas Eve, as Smith recalls, he had to go back within days due to complications from the surgery. Smith visited him in the hospital. “It was really tough for me to sit there feeling good and see Chris feeling that bad.”
“I don’t think I would be here today if he hadn’t done it,” said Smith, who is ever-so appreciative of Greene’s gift. Smith had a form of polycystic kidney disease that had left him with cysts on his kidneys that were each about the size of a football. “I think they were about the largest Baptist [Hospital] had removed at the time I had my surgery,” he said.
Smith’s father had died from complications of the disease approximately 30 years ago, and his brother also had it. His brother had a kidney transplant about 1 ½ years ago.
In fact, in a similar act of selflessness, Greene’s wife Tiffany offered to give his brother one of her kidneys, but when she went for the final test, they called her on the way home to tell her that she couldn’t be a donor. Based on the testing she had done, doctors felt there was a possibility that if she went through the surgery her remaining kidney might not be able to sustain her own life, based on its filtering and output. She was heartbroken and cried for days, said Smith. “The Greene family is just a really special family,” he concluded.
Smith and his wife Beverly have become very close to Greene and his wife. They talk and get together to socialize on a regular basis. Neither Greene nor Smith has had complications from the transplant since Greene’s initial problems right after the surgery. Smith experienced no rejection issues with his new kidney and has been dialysis-free since the surgery. Although he has had other health issues, the transplant surgery gave him a new lease on life. He and his wife are able to do things together, including motorcycle riding, although Beverly insists on riding her own bike most of the time.
But all of this would still be Greene’s secret had Smith not inquired about Greene’s progress in the BLET program from his old law enforcement buddy who is now teaching part-time at McDowell Tech. Greene never wanted any recognition for his actions and when a local newspaper had written an article about the transplant back in 2003, Greene had asked that they refer to him anonymously as a volunteer fireman with the Nebo Volunteer Fire Department. Greene lives in Nebo, an area of McDowell County, and served with the fire department there for 12 years, including a stint as assistant fire chief.
On Saturday night, May 16, 2009, however, Greene was honored by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and McDowell Technical Community College as the third recipient of the Josh Williams Memorial Award, named for an Old Fort, NC police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2007 when responding to an emergency call for assistance by a McDowell County Sheriff’s Deputy. A group of 8 lead instructors and a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police, which sponsors the award, chose Greene for the honor.
Wayne Greene, Director of the BLET Program; Chris Greene, BLET graudate; and
Jim Smith,retired Detective, Burke County Sheriff's Office.
The award is given annually to a graduating student in the MTCC Basic Law Enforcement Training Program who exemplifies strength of character, a willingness to help others, a spirit of selflessness, and a quiet kind of faith, much like that of the award’s namesake. Williams was a young police officer and recent graduate of McDowell Tech’s BLET program at the time of his death. The award carries no monetary value but is considered one of the highest honors given to a graduate.
“It’s time that he’s getting some well-deserved recognition,” Smith stated, referring to Greene. Back in 2003, Greene, now 41, had told folks that he wanted God to have all the glory. Greene is a devout Christian whose father, Steve Greene, was both a law enforcement officer and minister until recent years, when his health prevented him from doing both. Chris Greene is a member of Nealsville Church of God and, like his father, had been interested in law enforcement after watching his dad, uncle and cousin serve in the profession. Chris entered the BLET program last year, “…after my wife gave me the go ahead.” In age, he was the next to the oldest student in the class, but that did not hold him back in any way. “He is a good solid student,” said Program Director Wayne Edwards.
Three years ago when a new dialysis center came to McDowell County, Greene began working for DaVita Dialysis in Marion, NC, but he would like to use his newly acquired training through work in law enforcement in the not-too-distant future. While he may be called upon to save another life someday, he is also aware that his choice may put him in harms’ way in defense of another, but he is not worried.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” However Chris Greene chooses to make a living, he has already defined his life by what he has given and for whom he has given it. While he would like to work for the law of the land, he has proven again and again that he answers to an even higher authority, and Jim Smith is alive today because Chris Greene answered his call.
If you would like to answer the call to become a living kidney donor, contact the Living Donor Council at the National Kidney Foundation: 1-800-622-9010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greene still lives in Nebo, NC with his wife Tiffany. They are the parents of Megan Walker and Diamond Greene. In his spare time, Greene likes to hunt and participate in church activities.
Also, receiving recognition at this year’s BLET graduation was Paul Alkire, 23, who received the Academic Honors Award. He was also recognized for having the best physical fitness time and best firearms test score, although no specific awards are given for those recognitions. The Academic Honors Award is given annually to the student with the highest final average, which combines class grade point average and passing score on the state certification exam. Besides having the highest combined average, he also had the highest grade point average in the class of 15. Paul and his wife Kayla have two daughters.
Those interested in entering the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program at McDowell Tech may call Wayne Edwards at 828-652-0663 for more information. There will also be an informational meeting for prospective students on Thursday, May 28th at 6 p.m. in the BLET room at the Small Business Incubator on the McDowell Tech campus.