A dying father of five received a lifesaving kidney transplant in New York last week, months after his plea for a donor at Disney World went viral.
Back in August, Rob Leibowitz printed out a T-shirt that read, "In Need of Kidney O Positive," along with his phone number, and wore it for nine days straight while vacationing with his family at the Orlando, Florida, resort.
Leibowitz, 60, told KTLA sister station WPIX in New York City on Wednesday that the idea was borne out of "desperation"
"I look at my kids. When I’m with my kids all my problems go away. And I needed more time with them," he explained.
A couple at Disney World happened to see the shirt, took a photograph an uploaded it on Facebook. Within 24 hours, the post was shared by 30,000 users.
Liebowitz, who lives in New Jersey, said he was stunned when he began receiving calls from strangers across the U.S.
But he didn't find a match until a man in Indiana donating blood to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas chanced upon the then-viral post through a friend and contacted Liebowitz, according to WPIX.
Richie Sully didn't know Liebowitz when he called the number seen on the shirt and left a voicemail, telling him he wanted to donate his kidney.
"Hi, my name is Richie. I saw your post. I have an extra kidney. I’m O-positive. You’re more than welcome to have it," Sully said in his message, the station reported.
It turned out he was a match and about10 weeks later, Sully took off work and flew to New York, where he paid to stay in a hotel for two weeks. The two men, who are both single fathers, bonded and spent time with each other every day ahead of the surgery.
"We walked around Manhattan for like six hours and we had sushi and he took me to Times Square. And we talked about music and about being dads and things like that. And really hit it off," Sully told WPIX.
He underwent surgery to remove his kidney last Thursday at New York Presbyterian Hospital, with Liebowitz by his side. Soon after, the transplant took place.
When asked why he donated an organ to someone he didn't know, Sully told WPIX he did it simply because he could. He added that donating a kidney turned out to be an easier procedure than most think.
"It’s not a big deal," he said. "And I’ve talked to several donors in the last week that have all said the same thing. Like, if we could get people to understand how much of a big deal it’s not we would have so many more donors."
While Sully may not think it's a big deal, Liebowitz and his family would disagree -- to them, it was life changing. About 13 people die each day, on average, in the U.S. while waiting for a kidney transplant, according to the station.
"I keep saying thank you," Liebowitz said. "But you can’t put into words what he did for me, so I’ll have to figure out how to that the best I can for the rest of my life."
He said he's planning another family trip at Disney World soon, and hopes to have Sully and his children join them, along with the couple who snapped the photo.
Meanwhile, a YouCaring account has been set up to raise money for Sully to help him recoup some of the expenses from his trip to New York to have the surgery.
If you'd like more information on how to become living kidney donor, visit the website organdonor.gov.