A father in need of a kidney finally got a transplant thanks to the kindness of strangers and a T-shirt ad. Now, he and his donor want to spread awareness of kidney disease and people who suffer from it.
In August 2017, Robert Leibowitz walked around a theme park with his family while wearing a shirt with a message stating that he needed a kidney and that his blood type is O positive. His contact number was also printed on the $30 shirt.
The shirt captured people's attentions, but one person, Rocio Sandoval, even asked Leibowitz if she could take a photo of it to be posted on her social media account, thinking that the kidney was for Leibowitz's son whom he was pushing around in a wheelchair.
The post got the attention of thousands of people online, and Sandoval contacted the number on the photo to inform the family that the post had been shared thousands of times. It was only then that she found out that it was Leibowitz himself and not his son that needed that kidney. Though Leibowitz worried that people might not want to donate for an adult rather than for a child, Sandoval updated the post to reiterate the family's need for a kidney.
'Strangers Need Kidneys Too'
Soon enough, Leibowitz got a voicemail from a stranger who would turn out to be the man who would eventually donate his kidney to him, Richie Sully, a single father of two who works full-time, donates blood, and volunteers to save dogs. In the voicemail, Sully simply stated that he saw the post, that his blood type is also O positive, that he would like to donate his kidney, and that he is neither crazy nor on drugs.
After Sully passed the tests and matched with Leibowitz, the surgery was scheduled for January. However, even though Leibowitz's insurance covered most of the tests and the kidney transplant surgery itself, the two still need additional funding for other expenses. As such, they've put up a crowdfunding campaign to cover the extra expenses as well as to help them get by since both would have to get off work after the surgery.
Even now that the surgery is done, the two would like to share their story to let people know about kidney disease and the people who are still waiting in line for an organ donation. Often, donations come from deceased individuals who opted to donate organs after death, but just like in Leibowitz's and Sully's case, it's also entirely possible for a living person — even a stranger — to donate a kidney too.
"As a father, the one thing I want above all else is more time with my beautiful daughters. That's exactly what I'm giving this man; 20 years of healthy time spent with his kids. No more dialysis 12 hours a week. No more hoping and waiting," said Sully.