A 50-year-old Edmonton man gave the gift of life to a near-stranger during an operation at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver on Monday.
Darin Grunberg decided to donate one of his kidneys to Victoria's Kevin Campbell, also 50, who at only 32 was diagnosed with a slowly progressing kidney disease.
The disease left him with just four percent kidney function and was a demoralizing turn of events for the physically active personal trainer.
Two years ago when Campbell was put on a list for a new kidney, he expected to wait up to 12 years for the operation, based on current wait times.
That was until Grunberg read about Campbell’s story online and decided to step up now and donate.
“I truly believe we are on this earth as one big happy family — we are all one. And by helping Kevin I am helping myself, you know?” says Grunberg, who flew into Vancouver over the weekend.
The two met for the first time on Sunday, at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver. A distant family connection links the two men, although they didn't know each other.
Campbell went into surgery to receive the kidney Monday afternoon. The transplant should mean he will no longer need dialysis.
Grunberg took Monday's operation in his stride, saying “Yeah, it is going to hurt like hell, so I go through that for a little bit ... but it's going to change Kevin's life, it's going to change his daughter's life.”
'Yeah, it is going to hurt like hell, so I go through that for a little bit ... but it's going to change Kevin's life, it's going to change his daughter's life.' - Organ donor Darin Grunberg
The two men hope their story of helping strangers inspires others to do the same and have joined the Because I Can project to try to create more stories like theirs and help build a system of increased organ donations.
Levi Sampson, one of the organizers behind Because I Can, says his organization is pushing for a change to the way we go about getting donors.
“What we’re passionate about is seeing the law changed in Canada to go to an opt-out system instead of the current op-in system, when it comes to organ donor registry,” says Sampson.
Currently B.C. is one of two provinces that have an official organ donation registration system, although only 17 percent of British Columbians have registered as organ donors.
Last year there were 83 living kidney donations in B.C., with 37 of them coming from complete strangers.