Hero Central: Best Friend Gives The Gift of Life

4:35 AM, Jul 22, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY- All of us have given a gift to a friend at least once in our lives, but one friend sacrificing so much to give the gift of life to another? That truly takes a special friendship and a hero.

It was once said, "A faithful friend is the medicine of life." That saying now defines the relationship of Ryan Miller and his best friend Lisa Brennan.

"She's been like a sister to me the past 10 years and will continue to be for the rest of my life," said Miller, 30, of Kenmore.

Ryan was born with Renal Tubular Acidosis, and combined with hypertension, it led to chronic kidney disease. Earlier this year doctors dealt the 30-year-old a devastating blow.

"I was told that I would need a kidney transplant or face dialysis," he said.

Ryan just married the love of his life, Nicole, last October, and the couple is expecting their first child this December. This family's bright future suddenly grew incredibly dark and Ryan feared he would lose everything.

"Watch my son grow up and be able to throw the first baseball with him and play catch and his first day of school," he said.

Ryan wouldn't go down without a fight. He posted pleas for donors on Facebook and handed out donor bracelets with his name and phone number on them.

The response was overwhelming. Eight people came forward to get tested to see if they were a match, and unbeknownst to Ryan, one of them was his best friend, Lisa.

"I knew he would do it for me, in a heartbeat, I knew he would. And so I think that was the driving force," said Brennan, a special education teacher at the Stanley G. Falk School living in Williamsville.

The two met when Lisa was entering her freshman year at D'Youville College and Ryan was a Sophomore advisor helping her create her class schedule.

"We had been best friends ever since then," said Ryan.

"As busy as people's lives get we just always managed to check in with each other and I've been there with him through his engagement and his wedding and numerous birthdays. So we just have a very special relationship," Lisa added.

As Lisa was waiting for the results of the test in May, and some were frankly trying to talk her out of it, she watched a story on Channel 2 News. It was about a man named Mitch Stone, who received a kidney from a complete stranger, Diane Bookhagan, thanks to the WNY Kidney Connection.

"I saw that story and I was so moved. And I was moved to the point where even if I wasn't a match for Ryan I was considering donating to a stranger just to be a living donor," Lisa said.

But that wasn't necessary because of all the people tested, Ryan and Lisa's kidney's were the most compatible. She didn't hesitate.

"I've just been so peaceful and calm about the whole thing, that's just how I know I'm doing the right thing," said Lisa. "It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it."

"It takes a special type of person I think to give the gift of life like that and give me a second lease on my life," said Ryan.

Ryan and Lisa's surgeries are scheduled for August 20th at ECMC. On August 10th, the entire D'Youville campus community where Ryan works now as an advisor, and where Lisa's father also works, is coming together for a benefit to help with his medical costs not covered by insurance. They could be as high as $30,000 in the first year. For ticket and donation information, go to http://ryanfundraiser.org.

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