BABYLON, Long Island (PIX11) – Saving a life is something beach lifeguards are trained to do when faced with strong rip currents, but what happens when saving a life means donating an organ?

That’s what two Long Island lifeguards encountered when one of them fell ill.

What started as a summer friendship on the beach turned into a kidney donation for Robert Moses State Park beach lifeguards Joe Curry and Brandon Cullen.

“If you would’ve told me that when I first took this test to become an ocean lifeguard that down the line I’d be this close to someone, and I’d be donating an organ to a coworker, I would not have believed you,” said Cullen.

The pair started working together a few years ago and instantly clicked, forming a bromance. They had a similar sense of humor and enjoyed the same activities, such as surfing and lacrosse.

Despite the close friendship, Cullen was unaware of Curry’s worsening health.

“I didn’t really advertise that to a lot of people,” said Curry.

Curry was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a rare genetic kidney disorder, at six years old. With his health deteriorating, he left his teaching job and started dialysis last fall.

When he got the news, Cullen was participating in a work-study program on an oyster farm in New Zealand. After serious consideration and consulting with Curry’s parents and then his own parents, Cullen decided to go for testing to see if he was a match. He commuted into Manhattan from West Islip for a month as testing was done at NYU Langone.  

“It was scary to think about – donating a kidney,” Cullen recalled. “It was a lot of uncertainties as far as my own health as well. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to lifeguard again. I didn’t know what would happen in the future, but I knew that I needed to try.”

And it’s a good thing he tried because he was a match.

“I was just recovering back at home after getting the chest catheter implanted,” Curry added. “I found out the next morning, and it was a sigh of relief.”

The operation took place this spring, and a few months later, they took the lifeguard test and passed. They were both back on the beach in time for summer, doing what they loved.

“I had no other option except to be on the transplant list and dialysis, and very few people get that opportunity that I was getting, and it was coming from such a good friend,” Curry said.

“Having my friend back is priceless,” Cullen added.

Once this summer is over, Curry plans on teaching again, and Cullen is working on going back to New Zealand, but once next summer rolls around, you can count on those two to return to the beach to lifeguard at “Field 2” together again.