Gene Bean of KROQ's "Kevin and Bean" show is donating a… (Jamie Rector, For the Times )
Regular listeners to the "Kevin & Bean" morning show on KROQ-FM (106.7) know better than to believe everything they hear on the comedy program — whether it's about the opening of a Mall of America West, or basketball star Karl Malone playing Santa. But the topic Thursday was as serious, and personal, as life and death.
Gene "Bean" Baxter announced that he's donating a kidney to longtime KROQ DJ and chief engineer Scott Mason, who first underwent a transplant in 1999, and has been on dialysis since that kidney started to fail in 2010.
Baxter said he noticed Mason's poor health in April, when the latter came to Seattle to do some work on the home studio where Baxter works during the show, which airs 5-10 a.m. weekdays on the alternative music station. The usually reticent Mason divulged his situation, and as the two chatted about live donations, Baxter said he decided to help.
"It wasn't a big, like, emotional decision for me to offer my kidney up to Scott," Baxter said on the air Thursday. "It was a math problem for me. It was, 'You have zero and I have two; well, why don't I just give you one?' And that just made sense to me."
"You guys have made fun of me for a long time for not being emotional," Baxter said, to which partner Kevin Ryder cut in, "It's a good thing he doesn't need a heart, because he'd have to go somewhere else."
Baxter and Mason spent a large chunk of the program Thursday educating listeners about kidney function and organ donation. Mason said his low red blood cell count has him so sapped of energy, he can't even walk up a single flight of stairs without exhaustion. After he said doctors told him he probably had a six- to 10-year wait for another cadaver kidney, the hosts asked why he hadn't been hitting up everyone he knew for a live donation.
"I asked my family, basically," Mason, 52, said. "It's hard to ask somebody for something like that. Because what do they say to you … 'Uh, no?' You're putting somebody in a terrible position, at that point, and it was very hard for me to ask, unless it was my direct family."
Baxter said later that he's been a registered organ donor since he got his first driver's license, but hadn't thought about live donation until now.
"To me, it doesn't even seem like that big a deal," he said, compared to Mason's otherwise bleak outlook. Baxter said he's facing some pain and discomfort: "It's a few weeks of inconvenience."
He said the surgery is planned for Nov. 13, and he hopes to be home by Thanksgiving, and maybe back on the air the following Monday, Nov. 26. Mason, who in addition to his work at KROQ is chief West Coast engineer for its parent company, CBS Radio, said he'll be laid up about six weeks.
Baxter said the main message he hoped to get across to listeners was the importance of doing something even as simple as giving blood, or signing up to donate organs after death.
"It drives me insane to think that there are people out there … who are on waiting lists for organs all over this country," he said, "while at the same time, sometimes a mile away, they're burying perfectly usable organs in the ground."
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