We all have hundreds of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram friends, but how many true friends do we really have?
I’m not talking about a buddy that’ll buy you a beer after you’ve had a bad week.
I’m talking about a friend like Tyler.
A friend who is so unselfish that you don’t have to ask him if he’d be interested in donating a kidney – he offers before you can ask.
On Wednesday, February 15, healthy Tyler Dandrea (26) will donate a kidney to his buddy Austen Butler (26) – thus saving Austen’s life.
These friends will be 15 feet away from each other on their respective operating tables and under anesthesia at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Transplant Center. Over the course of a few hours, Charlotte surgeons will remove one of Tyler’s kidney and put it into Austen’s body. CHS’s transplant center does about 100 kidney transplants per year.
“I’m most nervous about making sure that Austen’s body accepts my kidney,” said Tyler.
Damn, Tyler is brave.
One thing people don’t realize about kidney donation is that once a potential donor matches, there isn’t a delay – you go ahead with the transplant. People unfamiliar with the kidney donation often think several potential donors are tested and then once all potential donor results are in, the hospital or candidate selects the donor. Wrong. It’s the first person to return their donor kit and match.
This means that there are many subtle ways to not be a donor – you just wait longer than other people to get your testing done. All testing is private. Candidates can back out at anytime.
This makes Tyler’s decision to donate his kidney unbelievably courageous. He stepped up. And he did it immediately after Austen texted him the news that he needed a transplant or will be forced to go on dialysis indefinitely.
“I’m ready to go,” says Tyler. “I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s such a crappy situation that happened to somebody so good. What options does Austen have? It’s Austen. He needs a kidney.”
I’m in awe of Tyler’s unselfishnesses. I understand firsthand.
Last year, my mom had kidney failure. I completed my donor testing blood work at a health center in Elizabeth and mailed it off to Florida Hospital in Orlando. A transplant specialist called me a week later and told me that my blood type didn’t match my mom’s blood type. I wasn’t a candidate. Not going to lie, it was stressful and I’m not as brave as Tyler.
[Agenda story: What do you say to your mother-in-law when she gives her kidney to your mom?]
Austen and Tyler met as freshmen at East Carolina University. They became friends and while living together sophomore year, Austen was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. Doctors told Austen that he’d likely need a kidney transplant in his 40’s or 5o’s, but the disease progressed more quickly than anticipated.
Austen helped Tyler get a job at Wyndham Capital Mortgage located in SouthPark- where they both currently work.
“Yes, I’m excited,” Austen told me.
Just from talking with Austen for 30 minutes, it’s clear to me that he’s a tough guy and his appreciation for Tyler is obvious. The transplant process is emotionally and physically exhausting because hospitals want high quality outcomes – which is a good thing, but it’s hard to be patient when your kidneys are failing.
Austen is currently going to dialysis on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to help get him healthy enough for the transplant. If you’re not familiar with dialysis, it’s brutal and your body goes from highs to lows depending on the treatment.
I only spent 30 minutes with Austen and Tyler in a third-floor conference room at Wyndham Capital Mortgage, but I left energized.
There’s something refreshing when you witness real friendship and vulnerability amongst two cool, young dudes. Especially in contrast to our current phone-obsessed culture where it’s easy to confuse Facebook friends with Tyler-level friends.
I’ll be saying a prayer for Austen and Tyler on February 15.
(Note: The average kidney transplant cost around $330,000 with an average of $15,000 out of pocket. Austen has setup a gofundme page to help out with medical bills)