N.T. Man Donates Kidney To Answer A Stranger's Prayers

12:45 AM, Feb 9, 2012   |    comments
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Seema Ure

BUFFALO, NY - This is the story of a guy from North Tonawanda who was looking to pay it forward, and a woman from Florida who was looking for a miracle.

For two full years, they had no idea that the other existed.

Seema Ure, and her husband Ian, were originally from Hamilton, Ontario across the border.

They moved to Florida where they led a vibrant, active, happy life -they loved the outdoors, everything from boating to hot air ballooning.

But Seema had been born with kidney disease and about five years ago her kidneys began to fail.

Seema required increasing amounts of dialysis and eventually this once pretty, active woman had been reduced to this - someone tethered to a dialysis machine and tubes for 12 to 14 hours a day.

As time went on, the dialysis took an increasing toll on her body and Seema's quality of life ebbed away.

Seema Ure: "I had prayed really hard and I said God just either take me away or get me a transplant. I just can't live like that, I felt like I was wasting away. I didn't want to live another day."

Seema's husband knew that even if his wife's will didn't give out her body would.

Ian Ure: "There's the denial all the way along that it's not going to happen to us ...(tears up)....it's there. To think you're going to lose the one that you love, it's really hard, your life as you know it crumbles in front of you."

Desperate for a donor, Seema found a website called the Western New York Kidney Connection where those in need can post their plea for help.

Rather than post a picture of the toll her disease had taken on her, Seema decided to post of a picture of the happy, vibrant person she once had been.

This is what she wrote:

"Hi, this was before dialysis filled my life. Since 2007, I've been slowly dying. I live on a machine for 12 hours a day each day at home and I have no one I can turn to for help, I feel very much alone in this world. It's hard for me to ask for help when it means someone has to go through so much for me I wish I could give the gift of life to someone rather than receive it. My blood type is A Positive and I don't want to keep living on a machine please help me, and hear my prayers."

A woman saw Seema's post and agreed to become a donor for her, but then at the last moment, the woman changed her mind.

Shortly before that, Greg Emminger the guy from North Tonawanda had read a column in the paper about someone who had donated his kidney to someone - a total stranger.

This is an excerpt from the column:

I was like you, I was too busy, and besides what if my kids needed one someday? What if it's both? It's better to let other people donate than me, I just don't have the time. One night I watched a TV special about altruistic donors I never realized how many people were dying while waiting for a broken system to work for them. So the next morning I got on the website to find out what this was about, I was impressed by how organized the website was and I was blinded by the people, the sheer number of people, real people, like you and me pouring out their last hope. It's hard to explain but it's like they became real to me, a transition was made from being a number to being a real live person. These people who were dying and scared were reaching out for real help.

Something about that article struck Greg like a thunderbolt.

Greg Emminger: "It gave me time to pause and reflect on all of the blessings I have. I have wonderful and healthy children, I have great friends, great family, financially things are good, I have a good career, I have a home. There was still something I felt I could do more, I could do something more to change someone else's life, to make their life as happy and as satisfying as mine is."

And so Greg went to the website that was mentioned in the newspaper column, the Western New York Kidney Connection and that's when he came across Seema's post.

Scott Brown: "When you read her post on the website, what is it that moved you?"

Greg Emminger: "I think the joy that I saw in her picture and the expression of happiness and life, then when I juxtaposed that to her little brief bio that said this is how I was, I'd like to return to that. I think that's what probably did it for me- knowing that this was someone who was full of life at some point and is now connected to a machine 14 hours a day."

Greg thought about all of those "what if" questions- what if he got into an accident, what if one of his own kids needed a kidney?

Greg Emminger: "I turned that into what if I don't do something for Seema? And the answer was pretty clear- she was going to die."

And it was then, last March that Greg through the Western New York Kidney Connection contacted Seema.

Scott Brown: "Tell me what the first phone call was like between you guys?"

Seema Ure: "Nervous, oh it's like my donor calling me. I was thinking what if I say something wrong and he changes his mind? That was the biggest fear, that he might change his mind."

Greg Emminger: "She couldn't stop thanking me. She got on the phone and started down the 'thank you, oh my gosh thank you,' we started having a conversation about logistics and what's the next step and she said 'oh my gosh thank you.' It was so much I finally said please stop, OK you're welcome let's get on with it now."

And get on with it they did - months of testing followed everything went well and they got the go ahead for the transplant last December.

One interesting point about the process is that Greg and Seema would not actually meet face to face until after the transplant.

Greg wanted to wait until after Christmas for the operation to take place.

Seema had done a lot of research on transplants on her own while she was waiting and praying for a miracle, and so when Greg came along she had already decided that the operation would take place here at Massachusetts General in Boston which had one of the best organ transplant programs in the country.

The operation took place last month, two weeks after Christmas.

Seema's virtually worthless right kidney was removed, Greg's right kidney was taken out and then transplanted into Seema's body.

All went well.

And then the guy from North Tonawanda who was looking to pay it forward, and the woman from Florida who was looking for a miracle met for the first time in Seema's hospital room.

Seema Ure: "I could hardly talk. I really prayed hard that I couldn't live another day on that machine, and somehow God heard me and went through him. Somehow he picked me."

Greg Emminger: "In looking into Seema's eyes that first time, knowing that there's a part of me inside of her that's going to change her life was just overpowering. I told her and Ian after there was a greater power that directed this whole thing and put her and I together."

We met with Greg and Seema just a week after the operation, believe it or not, Greg had already been discharged from the hospital and was about to head home to Buffalo.

Scott Brown: "Is Greg your hero, your angel, your lifesaver, what is he?"

Seema Ure: "I call him my Christmas angel.He's taken away all my fears and he's taken away all of my sufferings and that's why I call him an angel because to me it's not humanly possible to do that to someone but he did that."

Greg Emminger: "It's humbling and I don't know why other people, and I'm sure fear is part of it, it's not that difficult of a thing when you can change someone's life."

Scott Brown: "Why did you agree to do this interview with us?"

Greg Emminger: "Really for the whole purpose of getting the word out."

Seema Ure: "If anybody out there is thinking of donating, just please visit the site and donate."

Ian Urge: "It's the Gregs of the world that are the true, everyday heroes, helping people for nothing more than like he said - paying it forward, to do something good for somebody else. He's our angel."

To learn more about kidney donation, call Jeanette Ostrom with WNY Kidney Connection at (716) 450-8958.

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