Deputy James underwent a kidney transplant late Thursday and early Friday morning, receiving the kidney of fellow Deputy Eric Sikes, who died after a Tuesday morning accident in his patrol car.
"It's just a day of sadness. It's a day of happiness. It's hard to put into words," said Capt. Ray Myers, who works alongside Deputy James at the sheriff's office training facility.
He spoke with his colleague about the transplant before the surgery and again only hours after it.
Capt. Myers expressed grief at losing a deputy but consoled Deputy James by saying that Deputy Sikes "can go on living through him."
Deputy James' left eye and kidneys were damaged in 1990 when he was shot five times while attempting to make an arrest A kidney he received from his mother in 1993 recently began failing, and he has been on dialysis since Christmas.
Capt. Myers said Deputy James shared his experience with young deputies at the training center to keep them safe, recounting how he was shot when he was a road patrol officer responding to a home where a child was being beaten.
"He explains to them what can happen in the streets," the captain said, calling him a "very valuable" instructor.
The deputy was listed in good condition Friday afternoon by a Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics spokeswoman.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Deputy James' family is excited with his progress and how quickly he is recovering. The sheriff also expressed his sadness over losing Deputy Sikes.
"Law enforcement is a very close-knit group, and they are all like family," he said.
Deputies from Richmond County and other law enforcement officials lined the hospital hallways during the surgery, Sheriff Strength said.
It's important now, he said, to work with both families to ensure they have what they need.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.