2011-03-18 / Community

Co-Worker Donates Kidney, Saves Life

SJEH Employees Host Fundraiser Tonight
By Nicholas Briano

Andrew Greenhall (left) and Kevin Lynch (right) at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital the day before their surgeries Andrew Greenhall (left) and Kevin Lynch (right) at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital the day before their surgeries Rockaway Park resident Andrew Greenhall was diagnosed with diabetes at five years old. He had no choice but to get used to living with the disease, take his insulin and live as normal a life as possible. That was until two years ago when Greenhall, now 44, suffered kidney failure as a result of the diabetes.

Fortunately for Greenhall, while working inside the imaging department of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for the past 11 years he made a good friend in 58-year-old Kevin Lynch. The two men routinely shared the same early bird 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at the hospital.

When Greenhall’s kidneys failed, he began dialysis treatments three days a week while still working full time at the hospital. He also began to seek a compatible donor for a kidney. Naturally, as most would do, the first people he turned to were family members. But when neither his mother, father, nor sister came up as a match, he thought that was it. He was certain he would have to wait as long as a decade for his name to reach the top of New York State’s kidney donors list. He couldn’t imagine going through dialysis treatments for that long, because they were already affecting his everyday routine.

“That really took the wind out of my sails,” Greenhall said about not finding a match. “But I was determined to get off dialysis one way or another.”

That’s when he and Lynch, who often are alone in the early morning hours of their shift, sat down and had a talk.

“What do I have to do?” Lynch said to him knowing that the dialysis treatments were starting to take their toll on Greenhall. It was as simple as that, said Lynch, a 40-year veteran of the hospital. “It was just the right thing to do.”

They decided to give it a shot, even though they knew the chances of a match were slim. But when the tests came back and revealed that Lynch was a compatible match for Greenhall it was a no brainer. Lynch knew what he had to do. He realized at that moment that he had the opportunity to grant Greenhall a brand new lease on life and never hesitated.

“He was blown away and couldn’t believe I would do it for him, but really, I’d do it for anyone,” Lynch said. “If I could save his life and give him another 30 years then why not do it. It wasn’t a hard decision to make.”

Both men went in for their respective procedures on February 25 and even worked at the hospital together up until the last day before surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, which specializes in kidney transplant procedures. Doctors declared the surgeries a success and both Greenhall and Cedarhurst native, Lynch, are at home recovering.

“It’s hard to put it in perspective,” Greenhall said. “I am carrying a piece of him with me now, forever as long as I live. It’s like being born again.”

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital’s new Chief Executive Officer, Nelson Toebbe, admires what Lynch volunteered to do.

“We applaud Kevin Lynch and what he did on behalf of his friend and colleague, Andrew Greenhall,” he said. “This selfless act shows the depth of feeling among co-workers in the Imaging Department and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. We wish them both the best of health!”

The Administrative Director of Imaging Services, Patty Gillespie, their boss for more than four years, says that everyone in the department has come together to emotionally support their fellow co-workers. Lynch and Greenhall both expressed how grateful they are for everyone’s support.

“While they are the ones that went through this, we have rallied around to help them out as much as possible,” Gillespie said. “Kevin is a hero and we’re all behind them both 100 percent.” Gillespie encourages people to become organ donors. It’s a valuable resource that helps save lives of people just like Greenhall.

“I’m just so delighted by the whole thing,” she continued. “It is so incredible that something like this happened right here in Rockaway.

Gillespie’s same tight knit group of colleagues from the imaging department is putting together a fundraiser in Inwood tonight, March 18, to help support Greenhall and Lynch through their recoveries. Both men are slated to miss work for several months while they recuperate. The party which is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. will be held at the Inwood Buccaneers Club.

For more information contact Gillespie at 718-869-7715.

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