PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Chuck Hampton is 73, but he exudes the pep and verve of a TV aerobics instructor and the perpetual delight of someone to whom every glass appears half full. He has almost 4,000 friends on Facebook — and some call him “the mayor of Brown.”
As the welcome center specialist for Brown Athletics, Hampton has spent the past 17 years sharing his joie de vivre with generations of visitors to the University’s Olney Margolies Athletic Center — including coaches, students, faculty, alumni, parents and even kids attending summer sports camp.
“This is my comfort zone,” Hampton said as he looked across Brown’s Ittleson Quadrangle at the Athletics Center. “If I was a millionaire, I’d still come to work for free.”
Dr. Colleen Kelly, an associate professor of medicine who joined the Warren Alpert Medical School faculty in 2006, is a longtime Athletic Center habitué. A member of a running club that includes fellow Brown doctors, she always looked forward to Hampton’s warm, garrulous greeting when she arrived for early-morning indoor practice.
Kelly missed Hampton, and even worried about him, during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In November 2021, returning to the track for the first time in a year and a half, she recalled that she was so happy to see Hampton that she teared up and gave him a hug.
That’s when she noticed the bulge in his left forearm. It was an arteriovenous fistula, a surgically created connection between an artery and a vein that enables a patient to undergo dialysis, a life-saving treatment that cleanses the blood outside the body when the kidneys no longer can. To Kelly, the swollen vein could only mean one thing: Hampton’s kidneys were in serious trouble.
“The first thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ll just give him mine,’” said Kelly, who arrived at Brown in 2003 to complete a gastroenterology fellowship.
Kelly spent the next few months mulling over the idea, researching living organ donation and discussing the possibility with her husband and family members. Meanwhile, she noticed, Hampton was looking sicker. “He tried to put on a good face, but he didn’t have that same boundless energy,” she said.
As luck would have it, another member of Kelly’s running club was Dr. Paul Morrissey, a professor of surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School and the director of the Division of Organ Transplantation at Rhode Island Hospital, who was Hampton’s transplant surgeon. As Morrissey and Kelly were warming up one morning in the spring of 2022, she said she had a question for him. Even before she could pose it, Kelly said, Morrissey anticipated her question and replied, “Yes, I’ll take your kidney for Chuck.”
Kelly soon found herself on the time-consuming, and sometimes taxing, journey toward living organ donation. While the kidney is the most transplanted of the solid organs, Kelly was still required to undergo months of evaluations to assess both her physical and mental fitness to be a donor, as well as blood and tissue testing to determine compatibility with Hampton.