Good Samaritan donates kidney to Army veteran
UNDATED (WHDH) -- A Rhode Island man honored a hero by giving him the gift of life. He gave up a kidney to a sick serviceman who he didn't even know.
It started with a story in the local news paper.
"I read the story about his condition and what was going on," said Patrick Fitzgibbons, donor.
The story in the The Sun Chronicle was about a National Guardsman and Army veteran, Sergeant John Jennings -- a husband and father of two young children.
"I was getting ready to re deploy to Afghanistan, I had already deployed to Iraq and I was about to re deploy to Afghanistan in 2006," said Sergeant John Jennings.
But his blood work came back abnormal. Jennings had already been diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease -- a genetic disorder -- 11 years earlier, but his condition was worsening.
"In the next few years it got worse dramatically," said Jennings.
By mid 2011, it became clear Jennings needed a kidney transplant. And that's what prompted the newspaper article and a Facebook page, started by his wife Rebecca, “Veteran Seeking a Kidney.”
"I had an interview with the dialysis center," said Jennings.
And, in fact, he was all set to begin dialysis at Rhode Island Hospital, but something happened. The calls started pouring in to the hospital's transplant team -- more than 200 of them.
"It was remarkable and I imagine that has a lot to do with John first of all being a first-rate human being but also I think the military connection appealed to a lot of people," said Dr. Paul Morrissey, Rhode Island Hospital.
It was a story that appealed to Patrick Fitzgibbons.
"I called and went down and started the testing and very quickly, very quickly they found me to be the match," said Fitzgibbons.
On Nov. 7 of last year, Fitzgibbons became the 33rd Good Samaritan donor at Rhode Island Hospital.
The idea of allowing "strangers" to become kidney donors was adopted early on in the program. The hospital was among the first in the nation to get on board with it.
Fitzgibbons -- who as it turns out lives only a few miles from Jennings -- knew it was meant to be.
"I was supposed to see the story, I was supposed to call, I was supposed to get tested. I was supposed to be the match. I was supposed to do this," Fitzgibbons said.
They didn't meet until two days after the transplant in the hospital.
"It was one of the best moments of my life right there. Meeting your hero," Jennings said.
And since that time, the Fitzgibbons and the Jennings have become good friends. In fact, the two couples meet every few weeks to play trivial pursuit.
Fitzgibbons plans on going to Jenning’s son’s baseball games.