Kidney Donation Leads to Unexpected Kindness

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We are grateful to The New York Times for this story, which took us inside a remarkable event, a kind of relay race of generosity.

90,000 people need kidney transplants tonight, 4,500 will die each year. But the man who founded the National Kidney Registry figured out that all of us would find it in our hearts to help strangers if it in turn saved someone we knew and loved.

Well tonight the biggest kidney donor marathon in history.

It’s the incredible algebra of human kindness. One person deciding to save the life of a stranger. Whose family in turn saves the life of another stranger, and on and on.

All you need is the stranger who starts it.

“A stranger is just as important as a family or friend.”

Enter Rick Ruzzamenti, an electrician who said work was slow right now and he had time on his hands—enough time to give a gift.

“It’s like there’s some virtue to being kind and helpful to your family and friends, but that’s easy,” Ruzzamenti said. “If the world could love the stranger and be as kind to them as to their family and friends, world problems would be solved.”

Getting nothing in return, he decided to give his kidney to someone whose family couldn’t provide a match. As a result, his kidney traveled all across the country to New Jersey, to the family of a man who in turn donated one of their kidneys, to Brooke Kitzman from Michigan.

And as we said it went on and on—an ex-girlfriend getting a kidney because her ex-boyfriend gave one to someone else. The old prom dates from Queens, New York, Gregory donating a kidney so Zenovia could get a kidney from Samantha in Porterville, California.

The mastermind behind it all is an ex-marine with an MBA and his own company and a 10-year-old daughter who once had kidney failure. Fifteen people tried to donate until she got the match.

“When I saw these systems I thought there needed to be a better way, and that’s what drove us to create the National Kidney Registry,” said Garet Hil.

“It must have been a terrifying time.”

“It was very stressful, yes.”

“So, you’re giving back? You’re paying forward?”

“Yes, you might say that.”

And so it was, before dawn matching profiles, logistics, blood types. Four months, 17 hospitals, 11 states. Until this largest chain of generosity ever ended with a 30th transplant—47-year-old Donald Terry.

“I felt myself was like dying on dialysis,” Terry said. “When the doctor called me and told me that he had a kidney and that he was gonna donate, I can’t tell you how … I actually burst down in tears.”

And Terry had no idea that the two people watching over him were that ex-marine and the stranger who on impulse walked into the hospital.

“If you believe in God you could say well maybe God gave us an extra kidney so that we could give it away,” said Ruzzamenti. “You know, if I had another kidney I would donate that one too.”

So many people, connected by what it really means to be human. Many of them wanting to send a message like Paulette from Chicago, recipient number 12.

“The words thank you really aren’t enough, but they’re the only ones I know to say, so thank you,” said Paulette Behan.

Sending their gratitude in the hope that tomorrow morning before dawn, all across America, it can all begin again.

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