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“A Gift You Can’t Put Value On.” Stranger Donates Kidney To Save A Fellow Dad’s Life.

a two-photo collage. the first is of chris perez giving peace signs while wearing a shirt that says "having two kidneys is so last year." the second is of chris perez and steve sanders smiling for a selfie together.

Risking your health to save someone’s life goes beyond mere empathy. Living organ donors are heroes, plain and simple!

Chris Perez recently joined those ranks by donating one of his healthy kidneys to a total stranger. He works as director of volunteer services for Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. His wife was browsing Facebook and shared one of their post’s with him.

The story was about Steve Sanders, a 46-year-old single dad from Charlotte who suffers from a rare genetic condition called uromodulin kidney disease (UKD). In spite of leading a very healthy lifestyle, including going to the gym and riding his mountain bike regularly, the father-of-two was experiencing kidney failure. Facing dialysis, Steve decided to try to get a new kidney as soon as possible.

“I didn’t think dialysis would afford me the ability to do the things I’m able to do with my children now,” Steve recalled. “Finding a match for a live kidney meant it would likely last twice as long compared to a cadaver kidney and we would have the benefit of testing the donor beforehand.”

About 26 people close to Steve got tested, but none of them were matches. Growing more desperate by the day, Steve posted a plea for help on Facebook which was widely shared online.

That was the post that Chris and his wife happened to see that day. Tears came to his eyes as he read Steve’s story, and he felt compelled to do something to help this fellow dad in need.

“It was something about his story as a dad, and I was trying to imagine a situation like that in which I would need help,” said Chris. “I didn’t know him but thought, ‘Let’s give this a try – I would want someone to do this for me.'”

Since Chris works for Atrium Health, his colleagues helped him get tested right away. They were all surprised when Chris turned out to be a perfect match for Steve!

The men decided to meet before their surgeries, and they instantly hit it off. They found out they have a lot in common, including backgrounds, sense of humor, and a shared passion for being the best dads they can be. A friendship soon blossomed, and by the time they had their surgeries in January 2022, they felt more like family than strangers.

The surgery went perfectly, and Chris’ donated kidney began to function in Steve’s body right away! Steve can’t thank his new friend enough for this precious gift of life.

“It means everything to me,” said Steve. “It’s a chance at continuing to have a normal life with my kids. It shows Chris’ commitment to being a father and allowing me the same chance.”

Steve and Chris’ doctors expect them to make a complete recovery, and Chris says he already feels back to normal after losing one kidney. Thanks to the kindness of a man who was once a stranger, Steve now has a normal life expectancy and can plan for a future with his children!

Both men share their stories now to encourage more people to consider living organ donation! What other gift has the potential to not only change but save a person’s life?

Don’t forget to share this story to wish Chris and Steve well as they continue to recover.

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