Two Photographers, One Bond

April 28, 2019 10:52 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- For months we have been telling you the story of ABC 6 News Chief Photographer Chad Corey and his need for a new kidney.  He spent nearly a month last fall in the hospital after both his kidneys started to fail.  After nearly a year, he finally got the call he's been waiting for.

A heartfelt hug between a mother and a stranger. 


In just 24 hours, the Corey and Douglas families will write a new story.  Because Chris Douglas is the man who will be giving Corey, the gift of life.

"For someone to be that selfless is amazing," said Corey.  Corey has stage four kidney disease and needs a transplant.  For the past eight months, he's been on dialysis at Mayo Clinic spending four hours a day, three days a week, hooked up to a machine.

"I'm thankful that there is this machine that is acting like my kidney so it can get rid of the waste that my body is not doing on its own," said Corey. "It feels a little cold when the blood goes back in, but you don't really notice it a whole lot."

A trip to the emergency room last August confirmed what he already feared -- both his kidneys were failing.  "The first night when I was struggling with breathing, my chest felt like it was going to explode," he recalls.

His first scare and kidney surgery came at the age of 13.  "All my life I really haven't been 100 percent. When I do get a transplant, I think I'll feel 100 percent and I won't even know what to do because I'll have more energy, I won't even feel like myself," said Corey.

And that day is now fast approaching.  But it didn't come easy.

"So there is clearly a big gap between how many people are waiting and how many are actually transplanted and around 7,000 people on the waiting list will die every year before they're able to receive a transplant," said Dr. Patrick Dean.

Dean will be Corey's kidney transplant surgeon. He is a 15 year veteran at Mayo Clinic. He says 95,000 people are on the kidney waiting list in the United States. Last year more than 19,000 kidneys were transplanted and about 250 of those at Mayo Clinic. 

April is Donate Life Month and according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there were nearly 7,000 living organ donor transplants nationwide in 2018, the highest number since 2005.

While a lot remains uncertain for Corey, one thing was.  From billboards to benefits to sharing their story on Mayo Clinic Radio, it didn't take long for the outpouring of community support.

Then on February 28, 2019 he finally got the call he'd been waiting for.

"He called me and asked me how would I like a kidney and you know, I mean what do you say when someone says that over the phone, I mean you're just in shock," said Corey.

And as fate would have it, it was from a fellow photographer.

Chris Douglas met Chad out in the field three years ago as a freelance photographer covering high school sports for the Byron Review Newspaper. "You just start seeing the same people on the side lines," said Douglas, who works for Mayo Clinic.

Two photographers sharing the same sidelines, now sharing a bond.

"I don't know, when my dad passed away about nine years ago, he was only 67 at the time. It brings it home that you really have a short time here an you only get one go around at it, and so why wouldn’t you try to help other people have a good go around too," said Douglas.

Douglas saw Corey's post on Twitter last August and answered in a big way.  "I've donated blood for years, but I didn't know my own blood type, so I went and got my donor card and checked and we matched."

"I don't know if there are words to describe it, I mean obviously giving an organ is probably one of the greatest things you can do," said Corey.

Kidney transplants are extremely successful surgeries according to Dr. Mikel Prieto. Prieto will be Douglas's donor surgeon. With more than two decades of experience, he says live organ transplants are more common that we think.

"We have been doing this for a long time, we have two rooms, one room the donor goes in first and we start the donor surgery and while the donor surgery is going on, it takes about an hour and a half, in the recipient room they are getting Chad ready," said Prieto.  "We see what's called a miracle of hope, being able to use somebody's organ to save somebody's else's life."

"You can give somebody money, you can give someone food, but an organ, you can't really put a price on it," said Corey.

And you can't put a price on friendship.

Chad and Chris will undergo surgery Monday morning.  Our prayers are with them and their families.   Stay with ABC 6 News on updates on their recovery.


Laura Lee

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