the kindness of strangers
In Chris Perez, Steve Sanders found a kidney donor — and a friend.
Sanders has a rare genetic disease that caused his kidneys to slowly start failing, and doctors told him he would either need to start dialysis or undergo a kidney transplant. Several friends and family members were tested to see if they could donate a kidney to Sanders, but no one was a match. Last July, Sanders turned to social media, posting about his his need for a donor to a wider audience.
That's how Chris Perez, director of volunteer services at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, learned about Sanders' story. After reading the post and finding out Sanders had two children, Perez, a father of three, felt compelled to help. "I didn't know him but thought, let's give this a try — I would want someone to do this for me," Perez said in a statement.
After going through testing, Perez was found to be a match for Sanders, and the two spoke on the phone for the first time. "We hit it off right away," Sanders said, with the men bonding over their similar educational backgrounds and fatherhood. Soon, they were regularly spending time together and with their families.
Their surgeries were in January, and both Sanders and Perez recovered well. Sanders said it "means everything to me" that a stranger donated their kidney to him, and it's a gift for his entire family. "It's a chance at continuing to have a normal life with my kids," he said. "It shows Chris' commitment to being a father and allowing me the same chance."