ORLANDO, FLA. (WSVN) - Kidney donors often wait years for a match, but one man from New Jersey found his match in just a matter of months, and it was all thanks to a T-shirt he wore at Walt Disney World.
Robert Leibowitz, 60, made a shirt to wear on his trip to Orlando that got right to the point: “In need of a kidney. O positive. Call 917-597-2651.”
Leibowitz said his 14-year-old daughter came up with the idea of the shirt, thinking that wearing it at Disney would give him maximum exposure, Fox News reports.
As he walked around the Magic Kingdom while pushing one of his sons in a wheelchair, Rocio Sandoval spotted the shirt. That’s when one of her family members asked if he could take a picture and share it online.
“This man turned around with the biggest smile, so grateful and said, ‘Yes please!’” Sandoval posted back in August. “He gave us both a hug and said ‘Thank you, please share this with the world.’”
Her photo went viral, getting over 91,000 shares on Facebook.
Soon, Leibowitz started receiving calls from potential donors who had seen the photo, but while they had the right blood type, they didn’t meet the other requirements, according to WFTV.
Then, Richie Sully called from Indiana, after a friend from Texas shared the picture. He decided to get on a bus, traveling 14 hours to New Jersey so he could get tested. On Dec. 12, they finally got the news they were hoping for: Sully was a perfect match.
“As a father, the one thing I want above all else is more time with my beautiful daughters. That’s exactly what I’m giving this man; 20 years of healthy time spent with his kids,” Sully said. “No more dialysis 12 hours a week. No more hoping and waiting. Just peace of mind for him and his family.”
When Sandoval heard that her photo resulted in a match, she told Fox 35, “I started crying and screaming and crying and screaming. I was so excited.”
Leibowitz said he was in shock that their unconventional search for a donor actually worked, and that someone would be willing to travel halfway across the country to help. The father of five said he just wants to stay around for his children.
“I am a single dad. I love them more than anything in the world and they are my rocket fuel. That’s what keeps me going,” he told the station.
Sully started a YouCaring fundraiser in order to collect money for traveling to get the surgery.
“It seems that doing the right things isn’t free. Or even cheap,” he wrote on the fundraiser page. “So, while Robert’s insurance will pay for the testing and the eventual surgery, I have to pay to get my happy self over to Le Huge Apple.”
The kidney transplant is scheduled to take place next month in New York. After the surgery, Leibowitz, Sully and Sandoval say their families will all reunite where the “magic” started: the Magic Kingdom.
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