In January, Emil Albanese saw an old friend.
The man was “never very svelte,” Emil — a longtime Westporter — says diplomatically. Now, though, he’d lost a lot of weight — and during the holidays, no less.
“How did you do it?” Emil asked.
Not a good way, the man said. He had kidney disease.
He needed a transplant. Unfortunately his wife was not a match. His son was diabetic. And his daughter was pregnant.
Emil asked his blood type. “O negative,” his friend said.
“So am I!” Emil replied.
He quickly added: “I’ll give you mine.”
Emil is 62 years old. But he’d just had a physical. His doctor pronounced him “incredibly healthy.”
Tests revealed that Emil was an excellent match for his friend. “We were like brothers!” Emil says with amazement.
Then came more testing: blood, urine and tissue samples; an MRI, to see if Emil could function with just one kidney, plus a session with a psychiatrist.
“Why do you want to do this?” the doctor asked.
“My 87-year-old father has such joy with his grandson,” Emil said. “I want my friend to have that chance too.”
In mid-April, Emil got the word: “We’re good to go.” His friend’s wife wept with joy.
Surgery was scheduled for early May.
The procedure took 6 hours. Small incisions were made in Emil’s navel; a long one went up his side.
His stomach was pumped with gas. The surgeon removed his kidney, tied it off, and made sure his other kidney took over.
The toughest part of post-surgery came from all that gas. Emil hurt everywhere. That’s normal, his doctor said.
The pain has now subsided. Emil still has to be careful how he moves — he’s at risk for a hernia — but he considers that a small price to pay for giving his friend a kidney.
“I’ve always tried to do the right thing in my life,” Emil says. “I don’t understand how you can not do this, given the chance.”
Other friends and family members call Emil a hero. He does not think he is.
Of course, that’s one of the hallmarks of a hero. Which is why “06880” honors him today.
(For information on organ donation, click here. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email email@example.com. Hat tip: Kathleen Galley)