In June 2019, Steve Wilson was going on a bicycle ride. Much like many of us frequently do, he checked his cellphone before taking off, and saw a moving post about his friend’s daughter. “She was a junior in high school at the time, she just received a life-saving kidney from a woman in town,” Wilson told CBS News. “And they didn’t even know this woman til they made the plea for their daughter.”
“So, I became emotional. I just thought that is the coolest thing,” said Wilson, who lives in Westchester, N.Y. “I took a long bike ride thinking that feeling would go away, and I kept thinking, ‘I would love to do something like that one day.'”
In the wake of seeing the post, Wilson selflessly decided to become a living organ donor himself, giving a kidney, while he was alive, to a complete stranger.
“I knew it would go to someone. It ultimately went to someone across the country,” Wilson said. “They took my kidney at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell and they hustled it over to the airport and flew it out to the West Coast.”
Going through an elective medical procedure might seem daunting, but Wilson says all it takes is two weeks of your life for the operation and recovery. And to demonstrate that it isn’t burdensome, Wilson and fellow living donors set out on an even harder mission: Climbing and conquering Mount Kilimanjaro.
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This man donated a kidney to a stranger — then summited Mount Kilimanjaro to prove a point. https://t.co/UhVI3ntc1S
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 15, 2022
He said he actually doesn’t have a clue about the individual who accepted his kidney and he probably never will, which he’s okay with. He simply wanted it to change somebody’s life for the better, he said.
“I do think that having that purpose made it a little bit easier. But there were some people – and I was one of them – that really plowed hard to get through. And the purpose behind it was the reason you just kept going,” Wilson said.
Not only did the headline-making Kilimanjaro summit raise awareness for living donors, but Wilson’s own gift transformed into a chain response of giving from others.
“My kidney went to somebody. And then that somebody had a willing donor who wasn’t a match, but that person donated to somebody else, and it started a chain, whereby three people received kidneys,” he said. “All for, again, a two-week inconvenience to me.”
The group arrived at the summit on March 10 – symbolically, World Kidney Day. As for whether the climb was to move and encourage living donations was worth it, Wilson said he at least roused a friend to consider becoming a living donor, yet he thinks the Kilimanjaro summit could have inspired innumerable others.
“I think a lot more than one person will consider donating a kidney,” he said. “Because so many people aren’t aware that you can actually donate a kidney, that you only need one to live. Many people are born with one, and most people probably don’t even know that.”
It’s people like Steve who are worth sharing and inspiring others. He’s made such a selfless decision that, yes, affects him, but affects another person somewhere in the world a million times over in a positive way.