Kindness of Strangers: Central Illinois man gives kidney

When her husband Stewart was diagnosed with kidney failure, Laura Botsford made a promise.

I told Stewart, in one year I'm going to find you a donor,” Laura remembered.

In the months that followed, Stewart began dialysis, a trying process that took hours each week and led to bleeding and discomfort. Meanwhile, Laura looked for a new kidney. When family and friends didn’t match, she took her search public, printing yard signs, painting the family cars with pleas for a donor and launching a website. The search has drawn positive reactions.

“At the stoplight the other day, I had a couple roll down the window, and he was telling me just think positive … two years ago he had a heart transplant,” Stewart remembered.

Media outlets in the Chicago area covered the Botsford’s search, and photos of their painted cars rippled through social media, where one crossed the screen of Justin Maduena who lives near Dawson. Maduena’s wife had forwarded the photo after a friend shared it.

Maduena called the couple and offered to donate a kidney.

“(Stewart) kept saying ‘Hey brother, thank you so much!’ Maduena said. “He said ‘You’ve got to call this number for the hospital.’”

After a series of tests, doctors approved the transplant and scheduled the surgery for Tuesday, August 16. A few days before, both men travelled to the University of Chicago Medical Center for a final series of appointments. First, though, they met for the first time.

“When I saw (Justin) the first time, I gave him a hug and I physically had to stop hugging him to look at him and hug him again,” Laura said. “He’s saving Stew’s life. It’s a lot to ask a person to save your husband’s life.”

Both families said they hope sharing their story will inspire others to consider donating a kidney to someone who needs one; they point out that more than 100,000 people await kidney transplants in the United States and that transplants from living donors can have significant benefits.