Hip-hop star Freeway surprises New Jersey educator; shares story of kidney transplant

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Friday, April 26, 2024
Hip-hop star surprises NJ educator; shares story of kidney transplant
Hip-hop star Freeway surprises New Jersey educator; shares story of kidney transplant

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- April is National Donate Life Month. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Gift of Life Donor Program.

On Thursday, the organization celebrated by giving a big surprise to a local school administrator who is waiting for a life-saving organ donation.

"I've been on dialysis every year. My birthday marks another year," said Phillip Davis of his four years on the waitlist for a kidney donation.

As he lives every day hoping for a life-saving kidney donation, Davis still goes to work with a smile as assistant principal of Paul Robeson Charter School in Trenton.

"He will be there for any student and go out of his way," said school counselor Regina Bell.

"Anything I can do to help our kids, I'm all for it," said Davis.

Thursday's lesson included something unexpected: a surprise visit from hip-hop artist Freeway. He showed up as Davis was speaking with students.

Freeway revealed the crucial thing they have in common.

"I remember distinctly how it felt to be on dialysis. Some days it's draining," said Freeway. "Sometimes it's overwhelming and you need love and encouragement."

In 2015, Freeway was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. He was on dialysis for four years as he waited for a kidney. It's something thousands of people in our area are doing right now.

The 6abc Data Team found, as of the end of March, there were 6,047 people on the kidney waitlist in Pennsylvania; 2,425 in New Jersey; and 155 in Delaware.

Gift of Life Donor Program says Black people make up 13% of the organization's local region but 41% of the region's kidney transplant waitlist. It's one reason for events like the upcoming Donor Dash, which is happening this Sunday at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

It features 10k and 5k runs and walks. Registration is still open.

Thursday's surprise was one way for Gift of Life to celebrate decades of life-saving organ donations. Meeting Freeway was also the encouragement Davis needed.

"Being such a big fan, it's overwhelming," he said. "Knowing someone has been in your shoes, they can empathize. They know exactly what you're going through and how you can get through it."

The surprise turned into a debut of Davis' original song called "Gift of Life." He played the tune for Freeway and the school audience. But for both Freeway and Davis, it's about sharing not just music but hope.

"He's an amazing brother," said Freeway of Davis. "He has a good heart, and God-willing, he'll get his kidney soon."