Transplant patient grilling up praise in Old City

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April 29, 2014 3:40:05 PM PDT
An Alabama man who has been patiently waiting for a rare double transplant in Philadelphia since last summer has been biding his time by heating up the grill.

Jimmy Powell loves to barbecue for his new friends - the residents at the Gift of Life Family House in Old City.

"I just want to help and support and do all I can while I'm here," says Powell. "Because they do so much for me."

Jimmy has been at the Gift of Life Family House for about ten months - since last July when he and his wife Belinda realized that driving back and forth from Trinity Alabama, near Huntsville, was just too grueling.

Belinda says, "We've met a lot of very, very, very nice people here. The Family House has been a godsend."

The type of surgery Jimmy needs has only been performed about sixty times in the world. It's a dual lung/liver transplant, and the organs must come from the same donor.

Jimmy suffers from a rare disease known as Alpha One, which causes non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and non-smoking emphysema.

Back in July his doctors at Penn told him he'd probably have to wait no more than four months for two new lungs and a liver, but it didn't turn out that way.

"Other people are sicker and dying and passing away and need organs, and they give them to these folks first," Jimmy explained.

So Jimmy started giving back for all he was receiving, putting his passion for grilling to good use.

Sara Cohen from Gift of Life says, "One day we came to the house in the morning...and it just smelled so delicious. He made like these little sausage balls."

Talia Giordana, also from Gift of Life, remembers his pulled pork very well. "It was probably the best I ever had, and I'm hoping he'll make it again soon," she said.

It's not like Jimmy could afford to provide lunch regularly at the Family House. So he walked into Kissing Fresh Meats in Fishtown one day looking or a deal. But when owner Steve Verica heard it was for the Family House, there was no way Jimmy was going to pay.

"He wanted to cook something, so we gave him rib eyes in the beginning and whenever he comes over, whatever he wants, we give him," Verica said.

So Jimmy continues to barbecue with the help of his best bud, Lee Draper, who's waiting for a heart transplant. Lee says he's surprised how well the two get along.

"We say we're brothers from another mother, and it's amazing how much we have in common," Lee explained.

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