He wasn’t sure he’d succeed, but he knew he had to try.
Gentile had been diagnosed with stage four kidney disease in 2013, and doctors advised him to start looking for a donor instead of waiting on a list that could take years.
“The search is the hardest part,” Gentile said. “I wish there was an easier way that people could search for donors.”
When Meg Kleman saw a red, white and blue sign outside her neighborhood, she wasn’t sure anything would come of it, but she tried.
“The sign popped up, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m gonna call,’” Kleman said. “That was it.”
On Jan. 29, Kleman donated a kidney to Gentile, saving his life.
In July 2017, Kleman was one of more than 35 people who had called Gentile offering to be tested as a match at University of Cincinnati Medical. She passed preliminary blood type tests, and then another, and then another. After four months of testing, which included a CAT scan, nuclear stress test, psychological evaluation and more, she qualified as Gentile’s donor.
Gentile remembers sitting at work when he received the hospital’s call saying they had found his match.
“This weight just lifted off my shoulders,” Gentile said. “It was just an amazing feeling to know that … a complete stranger would do this for me.”
At 50 years old at the time, Kleman felt it was the perfect time in her life to donate. She was healthy and in good shape. Beyond that, she felt a strong sense of purpose when the opportunity came.
“I just feel like I could do this … as if it’s one of the reasons I’m here,” Kleman said.
Kleman’s donation was also a birthday present to Gentile, who turned 47 the day before their surgery.
She didn’t do it for the praise, Kleman said, but following the surgery she did receive a lot of praise for giving part of her body to a stranger. The purpose for her donation was not only to save Gentile’s life but to spark a movement and inspire others to save the lives of people around them.
“There could be hundreds of people that are willing to do this, but they don’t know how. It’s just difficult trying to get that word out,” Gentile said.
Kleman and Gentile hope their story can inspire others, they said. For Gentile, it was about fighting through pain to find someone who would help him live.
“Keep fighting and keep doing whatever you have to do to get your end result,” Gentile said.
For Kleman, it was about showing others that there is more they can do for strangers around them.
“If you can maybe make someone more comfortable with (donating) or maybe take one more step in that direction, for that, I’ll talk about it and share my story.”