NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Donating an organ takes lots of time and vigorous medical testing, but should you be a match, the end result is beautiful.
One man living in Manhattan is hoping someone comes forward to help save his life, in a state where 10,000 people are currently waiting for organs.
Ted Gregory gives back. He’s a volunteer, mentor, deacon and a father. He’s also a choir singer and, as of two years ago, in need of a kidney.
“My kidney failure was a result of having multiple myeloma, which was detected in 2011,” Gregory said.
About a year ago, when Gregory’s church asked the congregation for prayers, his friend George Pakenham knew something wasn’t right.
“He said ‘You know, I heard you were on the prayer list. What’s wrong?’ So I explained to him the whole situation about the kidney failure and my hospital stay,” Gregory said.
“I said ‘I’m willing to see if I can help you. Let’s do it,'” Pakenham said.
Without thinking, Pakenham offered up a major organ, and made a trip to Columbia Presbyterian to get tested.
“Went up there and got my blood drawn. Three weeks later I got a phone call, we were a match,” Pakenham said. “Called Ted, I said ‘Ted we’re a match!’ And Ted was overjoyed.”
But soon after, doctors found a 99% blocked artery in Gregory’s heart. He needed emergency surgery, taking him off the transplant list for three months.
Pakenham, however, continued his rigorous medical testing to see if he was strong enough to donate. At the last minute, doctors found a problem with his heart as well. Pakenham need life-saving surgery himself, where three projected stents quickly turned to six.
“And it derailed him from doing it,” Gregory said. “At that point I was consoling him, because he was so distraught about not being able to donate.”
In the process of trying to save Gregory’s life, Pakenham ultimately saved his own.
“The way I look at it, I’m saved, because I would’ve had a heart attack for sure,” Pakenham said.
As the two men learned, just wanting to donate is not enough.
“It can be really hard to find a good living donor, because they have to go through so many tests to prove that they are in fact so healthy that they can withstand losing a major organ, losing one of their kidneys,” said CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
Gomez says ultimately, Pakenham wouldn’t have been strong enough to give up a major organ.
“That same process that’s going on in the arteries of the heart can easily be going on, not easily, it is going on in other arteries in the body. So if it’s going on in the heart, it’s going on in other places. You’re going to t take a kidney out, you don’t know whether, again, whether that brings certain things to the fore,” Gomez said.
While they look for an eligible donor, Gregory continues to sing, work out and hope.
“If nothing else happens, I’ll walk away full knowing I’m loved that much,” Gregory said.
But for Pakenham, the fight isn’t over just yet.
“It was a wonderful thing to have as a life force, to think that I’m going to give this guy some more life,” Pakenham said. “That was a driving force. When that was taken away from me, it hurt. It hurt.”
The search for a donor continues. Both men say there is power in numbers. The more people that get checked to see if they are a match, the greater chance they have of finding one.
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