NEW ORLEANS — It's something very rare, but it happened recently at a local hospital. When one man decided he wanted to do something to help another person, he had no idea his decision would end up saving the lives of several strangers.
One by one people showed up at a Halloween party at Tulane Hospital. They were all incognito, as Frankenstein, Mexican Day of the Dead, as cats, and a blind mother chose a mask full of eyes. But this was not an ordinary party. The guests were all complete strangers, but with one major distinction. They literally saved each other's lives.
“This is the goodness that humanity has you, know. These are the best of the best people that can do this. This is why I became a transplant surgeon. This is why. This is why,” said Dr. Anil Paramesh. A Professor of Surgery at Tulane and the Surgical Director of the Kidney, Pancreas and Living Donor Transplant Program.
Dr. Paramesh was about to reveal a very rare occurrence. You see half of the complete strangers needed a kidney. The other half wanted to personally donate to their loved one, but they didn't match. And then a man from Mississippi showed up.
“I wanted to find a way to like help somebody, like somebody helped me, and I prayed about that a long time, and I felt like this is what God had me do,” said Bobby Browning, the altruistic, anonymous donor from Mississippi..
You see five years ago Bobby Browning was in a horrific car wreck. He wasn't supposed to live. So he decided to give someone else that chance at life too, and volunteered to donate a kidney.
Doctors call Bobby an altruistic, anonymous donor. People going through grueling days of dialysis waiting for as long as five years for a kidney, call him a guardian angel.
I'm very grateful, and it's been a long road up and down. And never knew what the future would be. I’m very blessed,” said Harry Peneguy, a kidney recipient.
You see, what Bobby could have never imagined was something transplant surgeons call a domino exchange. Here's how the kidney swap worked. When Bobby was able to give his kidney to Harry Peneguy. that allowed his son Kyle to give his kidney to Al Sonnier. That allowed Al's wife, Christine, to give hers to Noah Stanley, which then gave Noah's mother, Lisa, a chance to give her kidney to Hoang Nguyen.
“You are young. How old are you?” asked Kidney donor Lisa Stanley-Schexnaydre.
“I just turned 23 this year,” answered kidney recipient Hoang Nguyen.
“Oh my goodness, you are so young,” Stanley-Schexnaydre replied.
One by one, the cover came off of the board, and the Halloween masks came off of the strangers. Their names were revealed, and so were their hearts.
“We are so blessed. God has been so good to us and if you would have asked me over a year ago if I would be sitting in this chair, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not. Absolutely not!’ I'm scared to death of needles,” said
Christine Sonnier one of the kidney donors.
“It's a tough thing to see somebody sit in a chair and get dialysis under the circumstances,” said Kyle Peneguy, a kidney donor, about his father Harry.
“I'm really grateful to have a kidney, and have a normal life, not to go to dialysis,” said Noah Stanley, one of the kidney recipients.
“Thank you very much for donating your kidney,” said Nguyen.
“You're very welcome, and if there's anything else you need Dr. Paramesh knows how to get in touch with me,” Stanley-Schexnaydre replied with a laugh.
The hugs lasted longer than normal. The surgeries a few months ago, took two whole days. The bonds will last a lifetime. As Bobby told the group, “We're all family now.”
Kidney transplants that come from a living donor can last around 14 years. That's twice as long as a kidney from a deceased donor.