Sam Kissel (pictured right) donated his kidney to Kory.

By Sam Kissel, Eng ’15, as told to Tracy Staedter

“My wife, Janelle, and I were having dinner with our friend Jessica and her new boyfriend, Kory, when he mentioned he had polycystic kidney disease.”

Full of benign cysts, each kidney was a 20-pound football that couldn’t filter his blood normally and eventually would fail. (A healthy kidney is the size of a person’s fist and weighs half a pound.)

I thought about Kory’s 16-year-old daughter, Molly, possibly losing her dad. Nine months earlier, I had lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. If there had been anything in the world I could have done at the time, I would have done it. She would never see my sister graduate from college or get married. My parents raised us to care about people, to show them love and to do for people what Christ would do. For me, that feeling of being a man for others isn’t just something people say; it’s something they do. I had this opportunity with Kory to do for him what I couldn’t do for my mom. Janelle agreed.

Sam Kissel

When I told Kory (pictured above left) I wanted to donate my kidney, he was in disbelief. He’d become resigned to being on dialysis, while waiting for a cadaver kidney. After months of testing and prepping, the surgery couldn’t have gone better. During a walk around the nurse’s station afterward, I was leaning on my IV stand, shuffling around like I was 95, and Kory was walking like nothing happened. He couldn’t remember a time when he had felt so great. I had watched my mom deteriorate fast. To go from that to watching someone heal — it was far and away the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

Today, Kory looks like a different person. He retains less fluid and no longer has pain. It’s so humbling to know I was able to help and that he and I will have this special connection for the rest of our lives.

Kory (left) and Sam, post-kidney transplant.

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