Note: Video available for this story
Two former RIT roommates now share a bond that goes beyond memories of their time on campus: One donated his kidney to the other.
They met by chance in 2011 when Bill Gerken ’15 (political science, journalism) needed a roommate. A friend of his told an acquaintance also looking for a roommate about the opening, and Rob Glaspy ’13 (civil engineering technology) moved in. Both were from the Buffalo area, but that’s all they knew about each other.
Glaspy, who has Alport Syndrome, which affects his hearing, eyesight and kidney function, didn’t talk about his failing kidneys while at RIT.
“I had no idea,” Gerken said. “One night we were at a club and he said he couldn’t drink. But we didn’t know why.”
The roommates remained in contact after their graduations.
Last fall, Glaspy told Gerken he began dialysis treatment and was on a list to receive a kidney transplant. Gerken, who coincidently had done a sixth-grade project about kidney disease, immediately was screened to see if he could be a donor. It was a long process that included blood and psychological testing, but he was a perfect match.
“It was a quick decision to make,” Gerken said.
They underwent transplant surgery on March 22, and both are doing well.
“As soon as they hooked it up, it started working right there in the operating room,” said Glaspy, an engineering technician in Buffalo. “I have improved. I was constantly tired before. Now I have more strength, I’m going back to the gym.”
He takes 28 pills a day to help prevent rejection.
Gerken was back at work as a public relations assistant two weeks after the surgery.
“If I didn’t have the scar to prove it, I wouldn’t even know I donated a kidney,” he said.
The friends want to share their story to encourage others, especially college students, to talk about organ donation with their loved ones, and decide if it is something they would consider.
“College kids think they are invincible,” Gerken said.
The Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network says 120,000 people nationally are in need of a lifesaving transplant— more than 100,000 of them need a kidney. More than 8,000 people are waiting for kidneys in New York state.
Gerken has volunteered to tell his story to students, clubs and organizations in the Buffalo-area “Talk it Up” program” in hopes others will consider organ donation.
The former roommates have never been closer. “We hang out a lot, talk at least a couple times a week and go to Rochester together to visit friends,” Gerken said.
“We’re like brothers now,” Glaspy added. “And I’ll be there when he needs something from me.”
To see a video about the donation, go to http://bit.ly/KidneyBuddies.