Wanted: one gently used kidney

Danette Dooley
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Thanks to an ad campaign and a stranger's kindness, a former C.B.S. resident has a new lease on life

Cyril (Butch) Morgan admits he was desperate when he rented a huge billboard advertising for a kidney. Then again, desperate people have been known to do desperate things.

A former resident of Conception Bay South, Morgan, 46, lives in Lake Conroe, just north of Houston, Texas, with his wife Eileen.

Afte a billboard attracted media attention, Cyril (Butch) Morgan got a call from his new friend for life, Tom Riordan, shown above (left) with Morgan following surgery. Submitted photos

Cyril (Butch) Morgan admits he was desperate when he rented a huge billboard advertising for a kidney. Then again, desperate people have been known to do desperate things.

A former resident of Conception Bay South, Morgan, 46, lives in Lake Conroe, just north of Houston, Texas, with his wife Eileen.

In 2006, Morgan was diagnosed with renal failure.

His only hope was a kidney transplant. However, he was told that the wait could take many years - time, Morgan feared, he didn't have.

"I didn't know what to do," he says during an interview from his home.

"I was doing dialysis four times a day, every day of my life."

It was during a chat with an elderly neighbour that Morgan got the idea of advertising for a kidney.

While some companies were charging up to $10,000 for such a rental, Morgan found a business that would run his ad for $1,500.

Morgan's sign - complete with a headshot - read: "I Need a Kidney."

"They put the billboard sign up on a busy intersection right before Thanksgiving 2006. A week went by and I didn't get any calls. I was like, hey, this is a waste of 1,500 bucks."

Morgan was born in New Jersey. His father, the late Cyril Morgan, was from Seal Cove.

Morgan spent many summers in Conception Bay South as a child and moved there in 1979 with his parents.

"I helped my dad build a house and then I moved back to New Jersey, got married and had my children. I moved back up to Newfoundland in 1983 and I worked at the Newfoundland shipyard for about a year."

A welder, Morgan also worked at an offshore company in Donovans Industrial Park before taking a transfer to Texas.

Morgan said he was willing to do whatever it took to get a kidney, but his billboard wasn't without controversy.

A Houston hospital didn't approve of his advertising approach, he said.

"They didn't want me looking for my own donor. They wanted me to go through their proper channels. My proper channel was to stay alive."

After the controversy died down, Morgan transferred to a hospital in San Antonio.

Then his billboard caught the attention of a local radio show. After the station picked up his story, things happened quickly, he said, with other radio stations and television stations contacting him for interviews.

Offers

The media coverage resulted in several people coming forward to be tested as possible donors.

"One lady called and we were doing all the testing. She actually found out she had cancer by doing the testing. They gave her six months to live and she died in August '07."

Among those anxious to interview Morgan was CNN's Paula Zahn. It was the interview with Zahn in June 2007 that caught Tom Riordan's attention.

Riordan, 51, is a businessman in Lisle, Ill.

"He called me and said he was going to get the testing done. Then he called me a couple of weeks later and said, 'OK, Butch, I'm your blood match. So what's next?'" Morgan recalls.

Riordan's next call to Morgan was to tell him that the hospital in San Antonio wanted him to come there for follow-up.

"I'm thinking, Holy mackerel, this is going to cost me some money now," Morgan recalled.

"I asked him, 'How do you want me to pay for this?' And he said, 'Butch, I'm doing this for you. And I'm paying for everything.'"

When Riordan was told he was a match, he phoned Morgan with the news.

"He called me and he said, 'OK, Butch, how does Jan. 23 sound?' I said, 'Jan. 23 for what?' And he said, 'For the operation.'

"I started crying and I said, 'Are you crazy? I've been waiting two years to hear that.'"

The kidney transplant surgery took place as scheduled on Jan. 23.

When contacted at home in Illinois, Riordan admits his wife and children were leery when he told them he planned to donate his kidney to a man he'd never met.

"My family was excited about it but at the same time they were concerned. But after talking about it and visiting with the doctors, their concern dissipated greatly," Riordan explained.

He downplays his role in the surgery that Morgan says saved his life.

"I was only a small part of it," Riordan said. "There were all the doctors and nurses and they all had to do their work to make it successful."

Morgan has three grown children and is excited that he'll soon become a grandfather.

Both men are speaking out to let others know how strangers can donate organs and save lives.

Thanks to Riordan, Morgan said his future has never looked better.

"I'm going to get to see my grandchild be born and hopefully get to see my kids all get married. I hope to live to be a ripe old grandfather some day. ... There are really no words to describe it. If I seen (Riordan) right now, I'd give him a big kiss on his bald head. I love the man."

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Houston hospital

Geographic location: Conception Bay South, Houston, Texas, New Jersey Lake Conroe Newfoundland San Antonio Seal Cove Donovans Industrial Park Lisle, Ill. Illinois

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Recent comments

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    good news.i think i might be a distant relative.my mom was a morgan from seal cove & was relative of your father.
    his father was heber.

  • Coda
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    This is totally amazing!
    The generosity of giving away an organ, that you don't know if you'll ever need yourself, to a man you don't know from a hole in the ground.
    It's truly god's way of reminding us that there are good samaritan's out there and we should be a part of this.
    I'm blown away and ashamed too.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    good news.i think i might be a distant relative.my mom was a morgan from seal cove & was relative of your father.
    his father was heber.

  • Coda
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    This is totally amazing!
    The generosity of giving away an organ, that you don't know if you'll ever need yourself, to a man you don't know from a hole in the ground.
    It's truly god's way of reminding us that there are good samaritan's out there and we should be a part of this.
    I'm blown away and ashamed too.