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Man Uses T-Shirt and Disney World Trip to Find a Kidney

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After years of living with chronic kidney disease, one man used a T-shirt and a trip to Walt Disney World to let the world know about the hard to find treatment he’s searching for.

In August, a woman named Rocio Yanira Sandoval came across Robert Leibowitz at the Magic Kingdom, who was wearing a shirt that said “In need of kidney O positive” and a phone number. Sandoval and her husband asked if they could take a photo and share it online, and as she described, Leibowitz “turned around with the biggest smile, so grateful and said ‘Yes please!’ He gave us both a hug and said ‘Please share this with the world.’”

Sandoval posted the photo on Facebook, initially thinking Leibowitz’s son, who was sitting in a wheelchair while his dad pushed, was the one in need of a kidney. But after Sandoval called Leibowitz to tell him that people had been sharing her post, she learned it was actually Leibowitz who needed the kidney (he had been using the wheelchair himself but was stretching his legs when Sandoval approached him).

The post has been shared more than 87,000 times. Leibowitz told Babble that he’s received over 200 texts from people who have O positive blood, the most common blood type, and want to be tested as potential kidney matches.

Leibowitz said he had his first kidney infection when he was 12 years old and healed completely, but when he was 40, he learned that his kidneys would eventually fail. He’s 60 years old now and receives dialysis treatments four hours a day, three times a week and is on five different lists for a kidney donor.

Update: Leibowitz has received a kidney thanks to his T-shirt. PIX11 reported that Richie Sully, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was donating blood for Hurricane Harvey victims when a friend showed him Leibowitz’s viral post. He called the phone number and left a message saying, “Hi, my name is Richie. I saw your post. I have an extra kidney. I’m O-positive. You’re more than welcome to have it.” 

The two met up in New York and “really hit it off,” according to Sully, and on January 25 underwent kidney transplant surgery. They plan to take their families to Disney World, along with the couple who took the photo.

“I keep saying, ‘Thank you,’” Liebowitz said. “But you can’t put into words what he did for me, so I’ll have to figure out how to do the best I can for the rest of my life.” 

According to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there are currently over 96,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, but in 2016, only around 19,000 transplants performed.

Originally published: August 31, 2017
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