Roughly six months ago, on a family vacation to Disney World, single father of five Robert Leibowitz wore a t-shirt with the words: “In need of a kidney. O Positive. Call 917-597-2691”. It was a unique form of advertising to say the least and his plea ended up going viral. Now, he’s found a match.
Before he went to Disney World, Leibowitz, suffering from a form of kidney failure, wasn’t sure he’d ever find a match. He was on five different transplant lists, each of which had up to a seven-year waiting time. But, during his trip, Rocio and Juan Sandoval, two Disney World visitors, asked if they could share a picture of his shirt to Facebook and the world took notice.
Now, thousands of shares later, Richie Sully a 39-year old father of two from Fort Wayne, Indiana was found to be a perfect match for Leibowitz. The choice to donate was easy for Sully. As he told WCBS “I have an extra kidney, it’s not like I need them both.” After a successful transplant at New York-Presbyterian Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, both men are reported to be recovering really well.
Researchers have found that there may even be a scientific explanation behind Sully’s willingness to donate one of his kidneys. According to a study conducted by Abigail Marsh, non-direct organ donors — those who donate organs with no specific recipient in mind — have above average sized amygdalas. The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions and drives human empathy. Beyond that, people who have suffered extreme damage to the part of the brain that houses the amygdala have a limited ability to process emotions like fear (i.e. an understanding of what people don’t want to happen to them, and thus part and parcel to empathy).
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 Americans are currently waiting for a kidney transplant to save their lives. Only about 20 percent of those in need find a match and go through with a transplant every year.