Two fathers who were once strangers have become great friends thanks to a life-saving act of generosity.
Chris Perez, 40, and Steve Sanders, 46, have formed an unbreakable friendship when the former gave his kidney to Steve, who suffers from uromodulin kidney disease, a rare genetic ailment (UKD).
Steve discovered that his kidneys were gradually deteriorating. He’d have to go on dialysis for the rest of his life unless he had a transplant, which he didn’t want to do as a single parent with two kids.
“I was adamant about not going on dialysis… It’s really hard for your body to go on dialysis,” he explained.
Steve is otherwise healthy and quite active, despite his illness. He goes to the gym on a regular basis and enjoys riding his mountain bike.
His kidney function, on the other hand, is deteriorating.
“A few years ago, we were starting to have conversations about, well, ‘You might need to think about a transplant if these numbers continue to go down — or dialysis,’” Steve recalled of his doctor’s remarks.
He spoke with folks who had undergone dialysis and learned that they were “wiped away” after each session.
“I was terrified to hear how it had affected their quality of life,” he said.
As a result, Steve took matters into his own hands and established a website to help people find kidney donors. He also put a message on social media in the hopes that someone would see it and return his call.
His posts eventually gained traction, with at least 26 people filing papers to become donors as a result. However, nothing was coming through because the folks weren’t a good match or the procedure was stopped too soon.
Steve has no ill feelings against those who did it.
“I don’t hold it against them,” he remarked. “I understand totally.”
Despite this, he was dissatisfied because nothing seemed to be working out. Steve assumed that he would have to accept the possibility of dialysis at some point.
Fortunately, he never made it there. Steve received the word he had been waiting for in late 2021: he had been authorized as a donor.
When Steve heard the news, he said, “It was a great relief.” “I was relieved that someone was prepared to take a chance on me.”
In July 2021, Chris learned of Steve’s predicament via his wife. Chris had heard about his story from one of her coworkers who had shared it on social media.
“Sure, why not?” he thought when she asked if he would consider giving a kidney.
His wife reminded him about completing out his paperwork a week later. Chris began to learn more about the kidney donation process, including the risks to his health and how it might effect his quality of life.
“Once I was pleased with what I found,” he explained, “I downloaded the papers and submitted it in.” “After that, they contacted me to begin the procedure a few weeks later.”
Despite the fact that Steve was a stranger, Chris felt compelled to assist him as a fellow father. He stated that if he were in that situation, he would appreciate assistance.
“Thinking about it is terrifying. He explained, “Here’s this significant health issue that you can’t control and that isn’t your fault, but that might seriously effect your quality of life and your capacity to see your kids grow up and spend time with them and things like that.”
Chris also chose to donate his kidney to teach his children about empathy and kindness.
“I constantly remind my kids that we have to put in a lot of effort to be kind to others and kind to ourselves,” he said. “At the end of the day, I truly feel that our kindness and concern for others will be the legacy we leave behind after we’ve passed away.”
Chris didn’t contact Steve until he had been officially authorized as a donor, so as not to raise anyone’s hopes if things didn’t go as planned.
The hospital asked Chris if he wanted to share his phone number with Steve after he completed all of the exams, and he agreed.
The next day, Steve texted him and requested a phone call. The men had planned on talking for 15 minutes, but ended up talking for over two hours.
Steve described Chris as “like an old friend” and stated they had a “immediate connection.”
“It was as if I had known this guy my whole life yet had never met him.” “We hit it off right away,” he says.
The men had a lot in common, which helped them get along fast. Their sons shared the same name, shared similar backgrounds, and studied the same college major.
Chris happened to be the director of volunteer services at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, where his and Steve’s procedures would be performed.
The guys had their procedures in January 2022, and while in the hospital, they visited each other.
Steve and Chris’ friendship has persisted even after the transplant, with the latter claiming that they text “nearly daily.”
“Not only did I get a kidney, but I also received a pretty good friend,” Steve explained.
It’s a true gift to have someone willing to give a bit of themselves to help you live longer. Steve and Chris both hope that their tale may encourage others to consider becoming registered donors.
To understand more about this wonderful act of kindness, watch the video below from Atrium Health.
Watch the video here!