By April M. Washington
Fred D’Amico and Izya Dukorsky lived a mile from each other in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had nothing in common when they first met at a dialysis treatment center nearly two years ago.
For 18 months, they would see each other three times a week and make small talk about their illness.
All that they shared was end-stage kidney disease and a dire need of an organ donor.
“We had nothing in common. We never talked about personal thing,” D’Amico said. “I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. I’m Italian and a devout Catholic. He is Russian and Jewish. I have a sweet tooth and he likes beef.”
On Dec. 6, 2005, the two men became forever connected and best friends when, by tragic chance, they received kidneys from Bob Thomas, a Colorado Springs man, who died from a head injury.
D’Amico, 62, and Dukorsky, 59, choked back tears Sunday as they shared their story and paid homage to the donor’s family at the annual Donor Alliance family tribute event at the Belmar Center in Lakewood.
More than 250 family members of organ donors gathered to remember the gifts their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters gave so that countless others such as D’Amico and Dukorsky could live.
The odds that two men awaiting organs at a Brooklyn clinic would be matches for kidneys from the same donor where extremely long.
And the chance that D’Amico and Dukorsky would receive a kidney from as far away as Colorado was slim at best. By law, an organ that becomes available must go to a patient in the region where the donor died. But an exhaustive search for a match in Colorado and neighboring states came up empty.
D’Amico and Dukorsky hit the lottery when it turned out they shared one thing in common with each other and Thomas: Type A blood, said Diane Bacino, an organ donation coordinator and registered nurse at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs.
“These guys were one in a gazillion,” she said.
Doctors refer to two kidneys from the same donor as sisters. But D’Amico and Dukorsky now refer to themselves as brothers.
“The next day after surgery there was a curtain that separated us in our hospital room. I woke up and said, ‘Hello, my brother.’” Said Dukorsky, a Russian immigrant.
“Before our transplant, Fred and I were very sick. We are very blesses. We can now do the things normal people can. We can play with our grandchildren. To my family, Bob Thomas is a hero.”
Bacino persuaded Thomas’ wife, Cindy Arndt, and his mother, Pat Curry, to share his organs with others in need.
Thomas was 53 when he died, a tender-hearted man who was liked and trusted by everyone who knew, Curry said.
D’Amico and Dukorsky’s journey began in February when they set out to find their donor’s family. The two men made their first trip to Colorado in July to meet Thomas’s family.
“When I gave Fred and Izya a hug for the first time, I felt as if I were hugging Bob,” Arndt said. “We now have an unexplainable bond.”
D’Amico and Dukorsky said their lives were filled with pain and grueling dialysis sessions before their transplant surgery in December. Both men said they prayed for a miracle and pined for a normal life.
“Without Bob’s gift, I wouldn’t be sitting on this couch today,” D’Amico said.