ST. PETERSBURG — Before Becky Tower could receive a life-altering kidney transplant, the 61-year-old woman needed two things: a compatible organ donor and money to pay for the operation.
On Christmas Day, her youngest son, Tim, called with news: He was a match and wanted to give her a kidney.
"There was never any hesitation whatsoever," said Tim Tower, 36.
Her oldest son, Rodney Tower, a St. Petersburg police detective, wanted to find his own way to contribute.
"It's a situation where you want to be able to do something to help out, but you know you can't," he said.
So he tackled the second piece of the puzzle. He organized fundraisers and rallied his co-workers and the community around his mother.
On Friday, the family is holding a Texas Hold'em poker tournament at Derby Lane to try to raise $5,000 to offset medical bills. The tournament's cash prize pool is $1,500, and there is a raffle for other prizes.
After 30 years with diabetes, a successful transplant on Oct. 2 gave Becky Tower reason to hope. As she reflects on her five children — including daughters Kim, 40, and April and Amanda, both 32 — who have helped prop her up, she thinks about moments when their roles were reversed.
When Tim was a teenager, a helmet-free skateboarding habit often landed him in the emergency room. In some ways, her surgery is caring come full circle.
"It just came with the territory," she said. "It's what you do."
So far, the family has raised $7,660, according to her fundraising page on the National Foundation for Transplants website. But for Becky Tower, who fell into a health insurance gap, there's still the cost of a lifetime of anti-rejection medication to consider, and that will mean more fundraising. As her strength comes back, she said she's excited for the future.
For that, she said, she has her children to thank.
"I am so proud of them, and I feel as a mom I must have done something right."
Claire Wiseman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.