Jason Triche got a kidney from a fellow Louisiana sheriff's deputy named Robert Ardeneaux, after a deadly shooting severely injured Triche in 2012
Jason Triche still remembers the moment the bullet tore into his back.
“It was another typical day, and we were out on patrol when we got the call,” recalls Triche, a sheriff’s deputy in St. John Parish, Louisiana, of the morning in August 2012 when he and several other officers showed up at a trailer park and were ambushed by a man with an assault rifle.
“It hit me like a truck,” Triche says.
The 35-year-old married father of a young son dragged himself to his patrol car and drove to the hospital, where doctors doubted he would survive. When he awoke from a month-long coma, Triche was devastated to learn that two of his fellow deputies had been killed in the attack.
Doctors also told him that he needed a new kidney.
Over the next four years, Triche endured 29 surgeries to repair the damage done by the gunfire and the infections that ravaged his body. Three days a week he underwent dialysis that “left him nauseated, run down and with no energy” to do much of anything other than sit inside his house.
In March 2016, a deputy in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, named Robert Ardeneaux read about Triche’s plight on Facebook and knew exactly what he wanted to do: give him one of his kidneys.
“I’d never met him, but his story resonated with me,” Ardeneaux recalls. The two both worked in law enforcement and they were both married, with kids about the same age.
Ardeneaux, a 33-year-old dad to two young boys, tells PEOPLE he was struck that Triche “no longer had the option” to go out and enjoy his life. Triche says he was “hopeless” before he learned the good news and spoke with Ardeneaux.
“I was all excited,” he says. “I couldn’t believe a stranger would do this for me.”
• For more on the deputies’ story, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.
But Ardeneaux was no stranger to altruism: Not long after he got tested and learned that his kidney was “a perfect match” for the ailing Triche, Ardeneaux saved several people from drowning when floodwaters washed through Covington, Louisiana. (He tore numerous ligaments in his shoulder in the process.)
Not long after that, with his arm still in a sling from shoulder surgery, Ardeneaux ended up rescuing his unconscious young son from the bottom of a swimming pool and used CPR to resuscitate the boy before paramedics arrived.
Triche received Ardeneaux’s kidney in July, at New Orleans’s Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute. Days later, he says, “I felt like my old self again.”
In the months since the surgery, the two men have become “friends, almost like brothers,” says Triche, who returned to work on April 19.
Ardeneaux downplays his actions, insisting that what he received in return for donating his kidney was priceless.
“I just gave the man a fighting chance at life,” he says. “There’s nothing more satisfying than that.”