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The gift of life

Carmen Carroquino

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Post-surgery update: Still feeling great about her decision to give her kidney to a man she didn’t know via, Cynthia Love said Sunday that the surgery went great.

Thomas Wirt, the patient receiving his second lease on life, did have to go back into the operating room the following day to increase the urine level production is his new kidney, but is now doing well, Love said.

Feeling so much love from Wirt and his extended family and friends, she said she now thinks of him as her brother for life. Love is hopeful to get the word out, “that if you’re healthy, there is no reason not to do this.”

Her bags were packed and not a trace of doubt lingered in the Altamonte Springs woman's mind as she prepared to board a plane to Minnesota. She was precious cargo for a man awaiting a kidney transplant.

Cynthia Love, 52, flew to meet Thomas Wirt, 66, from Lewiston, Minn. for only the second time, but that time she was on her way to give him what he wanted most: an active and healthy retirement through the donation of one of her kidneys.

Love, a mother of two, promised this very special gift to Wirt, a family man with polycystic kidney disease, after meeting him in August on, a Web site that brings patients and living donors together.

"I just kept hoping someone would come forward and offer me a kidney or one would become available," Wirt said. "I thank God that she chose me to give her kidney to."

He first found out he needed a kidney transplant in January 2007. He had been on the national deceased donor waiting list for about a year and a half, receiving dialysis three times a week, when he posted a profile on the site.

The two met in person for the first time in December when Love had to fly up for some additional testing.

"I knew she was full of love like her name says," Wirt said.

Love, being just as enamored with Wirt, said, "Tom is soft-spoken and a joy to be around."

Knowing individuals living healthy lives with just one kidney, Love said she never doubted her decision, but was especially sure when she first met Wirt.

"When I told him and his wife that I was a compatible donor they were like, 'We could never repay you,' and I was like, 'Ok, I don't want to be repaid.'"

She first became interested in organ donation after trying to be a donor to her nephew Kenny, 39, who received a kidney transplant in July to some success.

She wasn't compatible with him. But through research of donor transplants she found the site and came across Wirt's story.

"It's been a very difficult process to see him (Kenny) go through it all," she said. "But I thought, if I'm healthy and wanted to donate to him, then I could donate to anyone.

"I look at life a little different. I truly believe we are all brothers and sisters, and if we acted like that the world would be a much better place."

Jane Neal, Love's sister and Kenny's mother, said she is proud of her sister's bravery and generosity.

"It's too bad she wasn't able to help my son, but I think it's great," she said. "We need more people like her that are brave, healthy and willing to do it."

Auston Love, 23, Love's younger son, was skeptical of his mother's decision in the beginning.

"I think it's incredibly generous and altruistic," he said. "I was shocked at first. … It's a big deal to me, to be completely healthy and give up one of your own body parts, but she really wants to do it, and I support her."

The surgery was scheduled at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., one of the 115 surgeries done thanks to, said Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, medical director of the site.

He said the site, which has about 7,600 potential donors listed, was designed to promote living transplant donations to decrease the more than 100,000 people waiting on the national list.

Wirt and Love will be linked for life by an unfortunate disease and an act of altruism.

"She's the kind of person to be like in this world," Wirt said.

Are you a match?

Visit if you're interested in becoming a donor or are in need of one.