Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Chasing Gold: A life-saving gift from Olympic champion swimmer to family of another

Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin's father, Dick, needed a miracle. And just when all hope seemed lost for a kidney donation, fellow gold medalist Crissy Perham came to the Franklin family's rescue.

This month’s “Chasing Gold” episode includes the story of an Olympic champion swimmer reaching out to the family of another Olympic champion swimmer in a time of need.

“Chasing Gold,” a monthly look at Olympic and Paralympic sports, airs Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and will be available on Peacock the following week.

Last winter, 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin Johnson spread the word that her father, Dick, and aunt and godmother, Deb, were in end-stage kidney failure. That side of the family has genetic polycystic kidney disease. They were both on transplant waiting lists for a cadaver kidney.

“Our family is looking for a Hail Mary and need your help as we are in a race for time,” Missy’s mom and Dick’s husband of 51 years, D.A., wrote on Facebook on Jan. 23.

That post made it to the screen of retired swimmer Crissy Perham (formerly Crissy Ahmann-Leighton), who at the 1992 Barcelona Games earned two relay gold medals and silver in the 100m butterfly. Perham had no prior relationship with the Franklin family, but she was moved by what she read.

“You could feel her desperation in that letter, and how important this was,” Perham said. “I did not put any sort of thought into it other than, I wonder if I can help? And if I can help, I should help.”

Perham emailed D.A. The process led to her donating a kidney to Dick in August. The donor and recipient met for the first time on gurneys moments before the surgeries. Deb also recently received a transplant.

“Two Olympic gold medalists, coming together, one my daughter, one my donor. I mean, come on. How surreal can we get on this? What are the mathematical odds?” Dick said. “To actually go into an operating room and have one of your organs removed for somebody who’s a complete stranger is pretty remarkable. Pretty darn remarkable in my mind. In the world we live in today, that’s in the top 1% of human behavior from where I sit.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!