GRAND RAPIDS—Many people help out strangers. They donate food, money, even a place to stay. But a woman from Grand Rapids started a new tradition at a local hospital, she donated her kidney to a complete stranger.
For five long years, Robert Austin of Grand Ledge was on dialysis, hooked up to machines. Both of his kidneys were failing.
"I'd do it five days a week for about four hours a night," Austin said. "It's draining, mentally and physically," he said.
It's not an easy task for a single father of two teenage boys. After years on the waiting list, he was losing hope. His kids wanted to donate, but they're too young.
"Working during the day, doing dialysis at night, my kids basically had to learn to raise themselves and take care of themselves," Austin said.
Until they got the surprising call in January. An anonymous donor wanted to give one of her kidneys to help save a life.
After months of recovering, the woman who gave him a second chance was about to walk around the corner at St. Mary's Health Care, and meet him face to face for the first time.
The two embraced in the hallway on Tuesday night, and immediately started asking questions. "Oh my God, it's so nice to meet you, how are you doing?" asked Susan Matheson.
"She totally changed my life, just my freedom's back," Austin said.
"It's like, oh he's a real person," said Matheson.
It was an invasive procedure for Matheson and a huge random act of kindness for the mother and wife who wanted to give back.
"A living kidney can last so much longer than one from someone who died in a car accident, it can last 12 years, 20 years, So I thought whatever, I can give up four weeks of my life to give 12 years to someone else," said Matheson.
Matheson says for her, it was no big deal. She had a four week recovery and it's something she doesn't think about much.
But she hopes other people will be inspired to do the same thing. It doesn't affect just one person, but an entire family.
"It really does give me a second chance but it didn't really just change my life but my kids and that's the biggest thing I have to thank her for," said Austin.