April 6, 2011— -- When Jeff Kurze found out his kidneys were failing, he and his wife Roxy put their lives on hold. The young couple from Warren, Michigan, hoped to start a family, but dialysis left Jeff, 35, too frail. He needed a new kidney.
After Jeff suffered a mini stroke last fall, doctors said it could take five years for him to climb the kidney waiting list and get the type O match he needed. That's when a desperate Roxy took to Facebook.
"Wishing a kidney would fall out of the sky so my husband can stop suffering," Roxy Kurze, a 30-year-old web designer, wrote on her Facebook wall. "So if anyone knows of a live donor with type O blood, PLEASE let me know."
Some people replied to say they'd get tested. But Roxy was skeptical.
"Sometimes people say stuff just so that other people will comment," Roxy said.
Then she got a private message from Ricky Cisco, a 25-year-old comedian she met once through work.
"We never even liked each other's posts," Roxy said, explaining that although they were "Facebook friends," they were basically strangers.
Cisco, who knew he had type O blood, wrote that he wanted to talk about Jeff's kidney, and asked to meet Roxy for coffee.
"Roxy's post sort of resonated because I knew right off the bat I was a candidate," Cisco said.
Cisco had never considered live kidney donation before and knew little about it.
"I had heard horror story side -- you know, people waking up in bath tubs and that," he said. "I had never heard the voluntary side."
But some online research revealed that the surgical risks were low and that life with one kidney would be no different, he said.
So the two strangers met for coffee.
"He hugged me and said, 'I want to give my kidney to your husband,'" Roxy said. "I said, 'You don't even know us -- you don't know me, you don't know my husband.'"
But Cisco knew it was meant to be.
"I was prepared to donate my kidney to anybody but it was really nice to have Jeff and Roxy be the people getting it," he said.
Roxy eagerly waited for Jeff to get home from work that November night.
"She told me on the stairs when I got home from work. I was just so in shock that I had to sit down. I could hardly breathe," Jeff said. "I doubted it a little bit at first. I just said, 'We'll see what happens.' And what happened was amazing."
Facebook Links Kidney Donor, Recipient
Cisco went to Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, to start the screening process immediately.
"The people who step up to be living donors are usually family members or people who know the individual with kidney failure because they love them and they want to do something to help," said Dr. Dilip Samarapungavan, medical director of multiorgan transplantation at Beaumont Hospital.
"To have someone step for pretty much out of the blue, that's a very special circumstance," Samarapungavan said. "Not enough can be said about someone like that."
Living donors are carefully screened to make sure they aren't putting themselves at any long term risk.
"Especially Mr. Cisco -- he's young and he has his whole life ahead of him," Samarapungavan said.
The final series of tests in February revealed that Cisco's kidney was a "weirdly perfect" match, Cisco said.
"Ricky told us that everything was going to work out -- that the surgery would be March 30," Jeff said. "I couldn't breathe. I knew he wouldn't give up after that."
And he didn't. On March 29, Jeff had his last dialysis treatment.
"Dialysis just sucks the life out of you. It's pretty bad," Jeff said. "I have to say the last dialysis was definitely the best one ever!"
The next morning, Cisco and the Kurzes, who went from strangers to best friends in the time leading up to that day, arrived at Beaumont Hospital for the transplant.
The procedure went off without a hitch.
"I'm really proud of myself," Cisco said. "I'm not like a super-altruistic person or anything. I've always just sort of been in my head. To put myself out in the world like this has really changed my perspective."
Now a week after the surgery, Cisco said he feels "amazing."
"I just can't lift heavy stuff. But I can't lift heavy stuff anyway," he said, jokingly.
Transplant Gives Young Couple New Life
Jeff has never felt better either. And he's eternally grateful for his wife's Facebook plea.
"She saved my life too," Jeff said. "I feel like it was fate and destiny. If it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have been in the right place to meet Ricky."
The Kurzes are excited to start planning a family, and have Cisco to thank for the chance.
"I don't know how we can ever repay him," Jeff said. "Just love him, I guess."