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Former police officer receives kidney donation from woman he arrested: 'She's like another daughter'

A former police officer who received a kidney from a woman he arrested for felony crimes says he’s gained a new daughter.

For years, Jocelyn James of Phil Campbell, Ala., fought an opioid addiction and was arrested 16 times for credit card fraud, theft and drug-related crimes. “It was a hot mess — I was in a very dark place in my life,” James, 40, tells Yahoo Life. “I was doing a lot of bad things like stealing and robbing... I didn’t know what to do to get back on the right track.”

“She had a bad reputation for doing drugs and stealing,” former Police Sgt. Terrell Potter of the Phil Campbell Police Department tells Yahoo Life. During his 44-year career, Potter, 68, whose late daughter was friends with James, had arrested her several times.

James’s turning point came in 2012 when she was watching television and saw her photo flash across the screen. “It was for Franklin County’s Most Wanted [list],” she says adding that members of the public who knew of James’s whereabouts were asked to call the police.

“At that point, I was just tired,” she recalls. So James called the Phil Campbell Police Department and asked, “What do I have to do to make this right?” She was advised to turn herself in.

James’s two children, then ages 6 and 9, moved in with their father and she was sentenced to jail for six months, then went to a rehabilitation facility in Birmingham for eight months. Afterward, James dedicated her life to helping other women overcome substance abuse, working multiple jobs to pay for their rehabilitation and running a ministry out of the Franklin County Jail. In 2018, James, who is married now, started her non-profit organization The Place of Grace, where women learn Bible principles and life skills as part of their recovery.

Meanwhile, in 2014 Potter was diagnosed with prostate cancer and four years later, retired from the police force. Although his cancer is in remission, his kidneys began failing. “My kidney function was rapidly dropping,” he shares. “They said I was going to be on dialysis for the rest of my life or I’d [need] a kidney transplant.” He learned that finding a donor would likely take seven or eight years, so in November, his daughter April asked on social media if anyone knew of a potential donor.

“He is to the point now of dialysis with his kidneys now functioning at 10% and will have to start immediately if we cannot find a donor,” she wrote.

Two miles away from Potter’s home, James found the Facebook post and reached out to April. “The Holy Spirit spoke to me that night and told me I had that man’s kidney,” she says.

Potter’s daughter surprised him with James’s offer. “If you asked me if I could give you a list of a hundred names that would give me a kidney, her name would not have been on the list,” he says. “It’s not that I had anything against her... but you don’t generally think about somebody like that being willing to give you a kidney.”

Tests revealed that James and Potter were a compatible match for the kidney donation. “They thought he was my dad,” says James. “We were that perfect.”

After the July 21 surgery, Potter felt a big improvement in his health. And both feel grateful toward the other. “I’m really honored that someone would do that,” says Potter. “This is not like giving someone a pint of blood — she’s like another daughter.”

“God saved my life to help other people,” James says. “That’s what we are supposed to do as humans.”

— Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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