Bryce Freeman is the Americas Deployment Leader for Program Leo at McCormick’s Corporate Headquarters in Hunt Valley, MD. He’s been a McCormick employee for five years.
Bryce Freeman is no stranger to lending a helping hand.
“Service has always been important in our family,” Bryce says. “Whether it was through church growing up or my fraternity experience in college, I always had a lot of opportunities to serve; like feeding the needy, participating in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program, and building homes for the homeless.”
And the charitable work didn’t end when Bryce earned his diploma. Since college, he’s served as a team leader for McCormick’s annual Charity Day and is a current board of trustees member at the Maryland Science Center. Bryce has also donated his time to multiple United Way agency boards.
But in just a few months, Bryce will give his greatest donation yet—a kidney to his younger brother, Lon.
“Even though I was probably a mean older brother growing up, we’ve always been very close,” Bryce says. The brothers both majored in chemical engineering at Iowa State and even joined the same fraternity. Now, they both work in the CPG industry (Bryce has held various manufacturing and sales operations roles within P&G and McCormick, and Lon has worked in Manufacturing and R&D at General Mills for 20 years).
Six years ago, Lon was taken to the Emergency Room for abdominal pain. What he thought was appendicitis turned out to be polycystic kidney disease. The pain he felt was a ruptured cyst.
“Lon is a really tough guy,” Bryce says. “He’s a two-time state wrestler in Iowa, so he’s definitely no stranger to pain. But this is clearly wearing on him. He feels hungover all the time, since his blood isn’t getting sufficiently filtered by his kidneys. The accumulated cysts and the formation of new cysts in his kidneys create ongoing, low-level pain as well as occasional sharp bursts.” Lon, who is a marathon runner and triathlete, has struggled to be as active as usual because of the disease.
Fortunately, Lon lives in Minnesota (close to Mayo Clinic) and Bryce lives in Maryland (close to Johns Hopkins). So, when Bryce offered to get tested to see if he was a match to donate his kidney, each brother had access to excellent health care. Bryce had to undergo months’ worth of physical and mental evaluations (including tests to rule out polycystic kidney disease, as it is genetic) to determine if he was healthy enough to donate.
On September 25th, Bryce’s birthday, the Mayo Clinic called and informed Bryce that he was a perfect match – something that only happens with 25 percent of blood relatives.
“If polycystic kidney disease is genetic and I don't have it, I feel guilty,” Bryce says. “Why does he have it and I don’t? I want to be in this with him. So, we were overjoyed when we found out I was a match and I could help.”
Lon says he struggles to put into words just how much his brother’s sacrifice means to him.
“What my brother offers me is an amazing gift," Lon says. “With a functioning kidney I can look forward to a much more complete life. Without a transplant, I would be destined to suffer through the ongoing need of dialysis. Since the average lifespan of a dialysis patient is between 5-10 years, I would likely never see my children get married or meet my grandchildren. My body would continue its deteriorating slide until it eventually just gave up. With Bryce’s kidney, I can look forward to actually living: seeing my family grow and share in all their experiences.”
As of right now, Bryce and Lon are hoping to schedule the transplant for the spring of 2020. Until then, Bryce, who’s also a marathon runner, is focused on maintaining his good health and hopes that by sharing his story, he can spread the word about the benefits of live organ donations. And at the very least, he hopes to convince people to become an organ donor on their driver’s license.
“When it comes to live organ donations, you just need to be willing to take a couple weeks of your life to extend somebody else's by 30 to 40 years. I can do everything with one kidney that I can with two. I've run 20 marathons, and this isn't going to slow me down.”
Because Bryce and Lon are a perfect match, there is only a 1.5 percent chance of Lon’s body rejecting Bryce’s kidney. Bryce says he is elated that if Lon’s body accepts the kidney, he will live a normal, healthy life.
“He’s a great man, and his wife and kids deserve to have him around much longer,” Bryce says. “I just want him to have a full and healthy life.”
Bryce’s colleagues say that his positive attitude carries through in the toughest of situations; in the office and out.
“I’ve known Bryce for almost 17 years and his energy is contagious,” Toshal Roy, senior director of global strategic programs, says. “I’ve watched him in challenging roles and have seen him step into crisis, and he’s positive in the toughest of situations. He’s been a mentor to me and countless others.”
His passion for his work, his community, and his family are perfect examples of McCormick’s Purpose-led Performance and Power of People principles and commitment to helping people live better lives.