Looking at life differently
Six years ago on July 25, Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Alan Young received a phone call that changed his outlook and gave him a second lease on life — a call to tell him there was a kidney available for his transplant.
Young, 47, was diagnosed in 1999 with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within the kidneys. The cysts are non-cancerous round sacs containing water-like fluid and can cause a variety of serious complications including kidney failure.
Young has an aunt currently on a kidney transplant list, a living uncle who has undergone two kidney transplants, another uncle who received a transplant and has since passed away and his mother who got a transplant before she passed away.
"There are only two members of my family living at this point who do not have the disease. Everyone else has been diagnosed," Young said.
A dedicated officer
Originally from Burke County, Young moved to Rutherford County in 1994 with his wife, Lynn. He has served the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office for 13 years.
"I've held every position you can hold in the detention center, from detention officer to lieutenant," Young said.
He is currently tasked with security and control of the Rutherford County Courthouse, ensuring employees and visitors get in and out of the courthouse safely and there is no contraband that enters the building. With these duties and occasionally assisting with bailiff work, Young said his job keeps him quite busy.
"I wouldn't say the job is challenging, but it keeps you on your toes," he said. "There is always something different going on every day and I just like helping people."
Young's interest in law enforcement was sparked by a friend, who is now a deputy, after they challenged one another to go through Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) at Isothermal Community College.
"We thought we were too old to go through BLET. At the time I was 32 and he was 30, and when we got into the class there were two other guys older than us but the rest were young kids," Young said with a laugh.
Now more than a decade later, Young said he plans to serve in law enforcement until he is able and ready to retire.
A call with good news
Young tried to keep busy, working at the Sheriff's Office while awaiting the news of a kidney transplant. Yet with his kidney failure, declining health and a traumatic motor vehicle accident in April 2008 involving three of his children, he knew he had to reassess his priorities.
"It all pushed me to where I had to go ahead and step out of work for a while so I could take care of myself and my family," he said.
After 14 months of undergoing dialysis and waiting on the transplant list, on July 25, 2008 Young got a call as he was on the way to Greensboro with his family.
"We were on our way to visit my wife's sister's house and got the call that I needed to be at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for a transplant," he said. "They were ready to do blood tests to make sure the kidney they had was a match."
Young said he received calls two other times for kidneys that ended up not matching, however, the third time was the charm.
A new outlook on life
Despite his hiatus with the Sheriff's Office prior to and after his transplant surgery, Young said his superiors and fellow staff members were loyal supporters.
"When I worked for Sheriff Jack Conner and his administration, they were very supportive and helped me as much as they possibly could," he said. "Even prior to the transplant when I would go take dialysis, they would let me do that and come into work if I felt up to it."
Once Young stepped out of work, he said Conner still kept in touch concerning his condition. Following the transplant, Young had an opportunity to return to the Sheriff's Office in December 2010 under Sheriff Chris Francis and his administration.
"Sheriff Francis has been very supportive and constantly asks me how I'm feeling, if I'm doing okay and if I need anything," Young said. "I've had a lot of support from not only the sheriff, but the whole department and the county."
Young's outlook on life was changed six years ago, and in between working at the courthouse and attending checkups for blood work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, four children and grandchild — daughters Hope, 26, Jessica, 24 and Mary Beth, 21; son Dyson, 10 and grandson Austin, 7.
"I'm trying to do as much with my kids as I can because I know I'm not going to be around forever," he said. "We have a farm here with animals and we go horseback riding. I also like working with kids and was helping out with the youth at church."
For the past few years Young has also been involved in the Forest City Youth Football League. He has coached the 5-6-year-olds team and is this year's assistant coach.
"When you go through a life-changing moment like that — getting a transplant and a second lease on life — your attitude does change. You look at things a whole lot differently," Young said. "Before I was always busy, constantly trying to do stuff and do more stuff and now, I take a little time out and try to stop and smell the roses so to speak."