Jim Talbot says his life as a day shift patrol officer for the Fullerton Police Department is pretty routine. His off hours are anything but.
And he and his wife, Erin, have taken the concept of giving to a whole new level.
It all began when Jim was donating blood for a friend’s son. A volunteer asked if he wanted to add his name to the bone marrow donation registry.
Yes, he did.
Four years later, in 2010, long after he remembered he was even on a list, he got a call: It looked like he might be a match for a man in need.
Jim drove down to a lab and got some blood drawn. It was confirmed. He was a match for an anonymous father of two high school girls who was battling leukemia.
He was told that the medication they would be using was experimental and hadn’t been approved by the FDA. They couldn’t guarantee there would be no long-term affects.
So, it was a risk.
But he told the few people who cautioned him to think twice: Wasn’t working on the police force a daily risk?
It was on.
Every morning for one week, a nurse arrived at the Talbot home to inject him with the drug, which stimulated his body to go into hyper-drive production of bone marrow.
The procedure made him achy and tired, like he had the flu. After a week, he was hooked up to a machine for eight hours so they could extract the stem cells he had grown.
And that was that.
Then, one year later, Jim got a letter. The person he donated to was alive — and wanted to meet him.
Jeff Stephens, from Pittsburg, Kan., flew out to Orange County in the spring of 2013. He and his wife Sherri had tears in their eyes when they arrived.
If it wasn’t for Jim, Jeff told him, he wouldn’t be alive. Jim had actually changed Jeff’s blood type. He was part of him now forever.
Shortly after the visit, Jim’s wife, Erin, was at her son Tyler’s basketball game when another mom confided that she was pregnant — with someone else’s baby. The woman was a surrogate for a woman who couldn’t carry.
She could do that!
Erin had already delivered three children of her own: Tyler (now 11), Tanner (now 9), and Lexie (now 5).
“Pregnancies were easy for me,” she says.
She had been so proud of her husband’s gift of life to Jeff.
“I saw what he did,” she said, and she had been secretly wondering how great it would be if she could do the same.
This was her chance. She told Jim and the kids and her parents. Then she called Building Families, an agency based in Orange County, and cleared the various hurdles, including a psychological test. Her only fear was an emotional attachment.
She would be carrying the baby of a woman who couldn’t do it herself because of kidney problems.
The couple, who lives in San Diego, met the Talbots at the outset. They drove up for every doctor’s appointment. And they were both in the delivery room, along with Jim, when Erin gave birth.
The baby boy arrived July 25.
Erin said it was not hard to hand him over.
“You can see all along this baby’s not yours. And when you saw their faces (in the delivery room), their tears … You knew that baby belonged to them.”
The families remain friends and in fact went to dinner together a few weeks ago at Islands in Temecula. The couple broke the news to Jim and Erin that they were moving into a bigger house.
So you can have more kids? Erin said, a smile on her lips.
“Do you want to do it again?” they asked, confessing they were just about to ask her.
Erin will have another embryo implanted in the fall. Right after she and Jim return from Kansas, to visit the man he saved.