William and Mary student donates kidney to complete stranger

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Chris Friend and his girlfriend Frankie Morin are window shopping at Merchant’s Square in between classes at William and Mary. The final semester of Friend’s college career is winding down, and it has been a whirlwind.

A8867460384A40B3A88505F0C663A84C“It’s a crazy feeling knowing that something I did may have saved someone’s life,” he reflects.

Friend gave one of his kidneys to a complete stranger on January 3, 2016. Two years earlier, the Louisiana native was so inspired by a Facebook post on becoming a living donor that he contacted the National Kidney Registry.

“I’ve always been interested in helping people,” Friend’s describes what appealed to him about a kidney donation. “I did a lot of mission trips when I was younger, but I haven’t had that chance since I came to college.  So this just seemed like a good way to give back.”

His inquiry led to months and months of screenings at the Virginia Transplant Center at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

“It’s a very unique and special individual that would come forward and say, ‘I’d like to donate a kidney, and I don’t know anyone who needs one,'” says Melissa VanSyckle, the Center’s Living Donor Transplant Coordinator.

VanSyckle worked with Friend to make sure he truly wanted to give such a rare gift. He is just one of five anonymous donors in the Center’s 25-year history, and his one selfless act helped many more people.

“It’s a crazy feeling knowing that something I did may have saved someone’s life.”

“He was the initiator of a five transplant chain,” VanSyckle explains the out-of-state woman who received Friend’s kidney had a loved one willing to donate to a patient on the waiting list and so on and so forth.

Friend says the recovery has not been as grueling as someone would expect. There was some pain and down time for about two weeks post-surgery, but now he is back to his regular routine. It includes his participation in Intramural teams at William and Mary.

“If I limit it, I can now get back into playing sports with friends or other students or whatnot,” he says. “I’m not going to go out and play tackle football games or stuff like that, but besides that I’m pretty much absolutely living a normal life.”

The Virginia Transplant Center will continue to monitor Friend for two years to make sure his health stays on track.

“He’s really a role model for someone so young to do something so selfless,” says VanSyckle, adding the woman who received his kidney is doing well.

Through the Center, Friend was able to reach out to the patient, but she is not ready to be in touch with him.

“People may feel a little overwhelmed and not know how to say thank you,” VanSyckle explains.

Friend is looking forward to graduation next month and landing his first job in Sports Statistics.  Until now, only those closest to him knew about his donation, but he is going public now.  He hopes his story will be a starting point for others who consider donating too.

“I don’t really think of myself as a hero,” he says.  “Just the opportunity to contribute some way like so many other people do just made me feel good.”

Right now about 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney, with roughly 3,500 of them living in Virginia.  Anyone who is interested in learning more about being a kidney donor can call the Virginia Transplant Center at (804) 289-4941.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about being a kidney donor can call the Virginia Transplant Center at (804) 289-4941.

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