When a Friend Becomes a Donor

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Luke Thiboutot (left) and Ryan Conner at StoryCorps in Boston.

Luke Thiboutot (left) and Ryan Conner at a StoryCorps booth in Boston. StoryCorps hide caption

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Luke Thiboutot and Ryan Conner were roommates when they were freshmen in college, where they both studied architecture. Now in their 30s, they've stayed close. Last year, their friendship took a remarkable turn: Ryan donated a kidney so Luke could live a healthy life.

Ryan's offer came quickly, on the same day that Luke was diagnosed with kidney failure.

"I was the match," Ryan says, remembering that he didn't hesitate, but that the decision still weighed on him.

"It's the worry or the guilt that you carry in doing something that could really have a serious negative impact on your family," Ryan explains.

For his part, Luke says the medical procedure was straightforward, but the meaning behind it was difficult to grasp. The magnitude of their medical decision occurred to him, of all places, at a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

A friend had given them tickets as a get-well gift, and Luke says that he was suddenly struck by what they had done.

He remembers that, standing next to Ryan at the urinals, he began to get philosophical.

"I realized that everything going on here is essentially the result of your kidneys," Luke says. "It was no longer my body working. It was your body working."

Luke says he knew exactly what Ryan was thinking at that moment, too.

"You're counting the number of beers you've had that day. You're calculating how many you should — or should not — have before the 7th inning, when they close up," Luke recalls. "All along, you've acted like this wasn't an enormous thing. You didn't then either."

It was, Luke says, typical of a friend who takes things in stride.

Produced for 'Morning Edition' by Sarah Kramer, senior producer for StoryCorps.

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