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College friends become 'blood brothers' after one receives kidney donation from other

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Justice Amarillas | The Daily Wildcat

Old Main on the UA Campus on a cloudy day. Old Main is a common place to take photos, especially when just arriving to UA.

Years after graduating from the University of Arizona, Daily Wildcat alumnus Bryan Hance gave more than just college memories to his friend, fellow alumnus Tom Collins – he gave a kidney as well.

In 2006 Collins was diagnosed with a degenerative kidney disease, according to the Arizona Mirror. Collins’ disease forced him to start kidney dialysis, an artificial way to remove waste, maintain chemical levels in the body and control blood pressure. 

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the average life expectancy for a patient on kidney dialysis is five to ten years. 

Collins was supposed to stay on dialysis until he found a match on the kidney donation list. The average wait for a deceased kidney donor is three to five years, according to Collins.

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After seeing Facebook posts from Collins’ family, a story in the Arizona Republic and posts circulated through the UA Journalism Department, Hance began the journey to see if he could be a donor match.  

After learning that he was a perfect match for Collins, Hance said he decided to donate his kidney.

“I kept putting myself in his shoes again and again and again, and I just kept thinking that if that was me, I would hope that anybody I have ever known or anyone that had any relationship with me or cared about me in any way would step up and try to see if it was doable,” Hance said.

According to Hance, many people were surprised by his decision, because a majority of donors are usually related or very close to the person in need, and he and Collins hadn’t spoken in nearly 20 years.

Hance had told Collins he was the donor only a week before the surgery.

“I was completely surprised that he offered to donate his kidney. We are Facebook friends, but I hadn't seen him in person in a very long time,” Collins said.

The two reunited before the operation.

“I have a real strong bond to everything about that time and the friends I made, even to this day,” Hance said.  “There is still a bond there. People don’t change, we just get kind of older and softer and fatter.”

According to Hance, the average life expectancy for a patient with a new kidney is five to twenty years.

“For me I was like, ‘oh I am out of work for four weeks and now I’m sore, but now this person gets to live another 20 years.’  I’m not trying to downplay it, surgery is surgery, but the benefits are insane,” Hance said.  “The amount of life any person can live in 20 years is amazing, and that’s what I'm hoping for.”

According to Hance, who regularly eats healthy and exercises daily, the kidney he gave will hopefully help Tom, since it's "an absolute kick-ass, over-achiever kidney."

“I’m not married, I don't have kids, I've never really given life to anything. It's just me, and knowing this tiny, tiny part of me is doing crucial things in my friend's body and it's gonna let him go so far makes me happy,” Hance said.

After his recovery, Collins will be able to resume his life and his career as the Executive Director of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

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Another fellow alumnus of UA and the Daily Wildcat, Jeremy Duda, reported on the story for the Arizona Mirror after the surgery.

“I cover the state capitol here in Phoenix, so there is a lot of U of A alumni around,” Duda said.

According to Hance, both men are recovering well and comparing notes with each other.

“I would do this again in a heartbeat if it was physically possible,” Hance said. “For this minor inconvenience, my friend gets to prosper and live his life and do great things.”


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