After losing touch for 20 years, Calgary man donating kidney to high school friend
Shamus Neeson wants to encourage others to become living organ donors
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When Shamus Neeson signed up to be a living kidney donor in 2015, he didn’t know to whom his organ would go. He knew he would be saving a life, and that’s all that mattered.
Through the grapevine, Neeson heard rumours about a friend of a friend who needed a kidney.
That person turned out to be Nelson Nobrega – who attended high school with Neeson 20 years prior.
They played junior football together, and had recently reconnected on Facebook.
“I messaged him and said, 'Hey, I heard you need a kidney and I’ve got one,'” said Neeson, laughing.
They were the same blood type, and after more testing, found out they were a complete match.
The date was set – on Feb. 8, both Neeson and Nobrega will check into the Foothills Hospital for surgery.
“It’s one of those serendipitous things. We haven’t seen each other in 20 years, and all of a sudden we’ve come to this point,” said Nobrega, who has been battling kidney disease for the past eight years and gets hooked up to a dialysis machine for four hours, three times a week.
Initially, Neeson was matched with someone who had been waiting for more than eight years – but the victim of a fatal car crash turned out to be a perfect match for her, and the transplant went ahead.
“That left me in a bit of limbo,” said Neeson, who was still determined to donate his kidney to someone.
“I had already made the decision mentally that I was doing this. At that point, it really didn’t matter who I was saving,” he said.
The process to become a donor wasn’t difficult, according to Neeson, who wants to encourage other Calgarians to sign up for Alberta’s Living Donor Program.
“I’m going to be off work for a couple months and I’m helping lengthen someone’s life – why not?” he said.
Nobrega said he feels blessed to have a friend like Neeson.
“My first question when I wake up from surgery will be, ‘How is Shamus doing?’”