Unsung Hero #99

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 Albanese

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.

Emil Albanese with his doctor. His name is not, as you may think, John Travolta.

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.

This is not Emil Albanese’s actual kidney.

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 dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Kathleen Galley)

8 responses to “Unsung Hero #99

  1. Arne Lewertoff

    Emil is a great friend of mine and this is the most inspiring story that I have seen in a long time. What an amazing act of kindness putting your own life at risk to help a friend. This will stick with me forever. You are a good man Emil!

  2. Bravo, Emil!

    Great model for everyone!

  3. vivianne pommier

    Thank you Emil:

    As one that is very involved with the Kidney Foundation and transplantation, I am so happy to hear that you were a match and offered your kidney.
    Very few people are aware the you only need one functioning kidney and right now there are over 100,000 on the waiting list.

    Quite often recipients can not be matched with their children, and their
    time with disease, and dialysis can be awful.

    Emil – you are a hero and an example to all.

    May you have continued great health (yes, the gas is a problem for a while), and may your recipient also continue to celebrate his new life.

  4. Dana Brownell

    Truly a HERO and a heartwarming story about the good of people. Such a positive and touching gesture amidst all the negativity you read about these days.

  5. Joanne Romano-Csonka

    Emil is a good man, I’ve known him for quite a few years and this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  6. Tony Giunta

    Emil, people like myself are grateful for people like you. Your generous donation has afforded another person to live a near normal life and I know how grateful that recipient is. You have given him a wonderful gift. I know from experience.

    As Vivianne has pointed out there is a huge need for donated kidneys as well as other organs. If you, a reader. are interested in knowing more about how you can help, simply look up “Donate Life America” where you will find answers to your questions. If you are interested in donating an organ and/or tissue, and have a Connecticut Driver’s license and are interested in how you can donate, go to DMV.ORG . Lives can be saved through your help.

  7. Iain Bruce

    Emil is one of the most relentlessly positive people I know. This is completely in character for this enthusiastic lover of life. Bravo Emil!

  8. Antonia Propper

    What a beautiful thing to do. Emil, you are a hero and you made me cry reading this!