HUNTINGTOWN, Md. (CBS) – Joe Gilvary doesn’t think of himself as a hero. But few people have ever done what he did: recently donating two organs to two strangers in need.
In an interview with CBS News, Gilvary said, “Next to becoming a dad, this is the best thing I’ve ever done, best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“That’s a pretty big statement,” said Craig.
Gilvary responded. “It is, but it’s an opportunity that I wish more people had.”
Gilvary, who lives in Maryland, was not even a registered organ donor when he read a desperate plea for a kidney in an online prayer group. He was so moved, he offered one of his own kidneys to the stranger in New York.
The recipient, Fred Howe, was suffering from kidney disease and running out of time. The donation saved Howe’s life. He says he now thinks of Gilvary as a brother. “I never thought that this would happen,” Howe says, “could never have dreamt it. Could never have made this story up.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Gilvary says, “I told people afterwards, if I can do this again, I would.” And so he did.
Just a year after donating his kidney, Gilvary gave part of his liver to an infant in Ohio who was struggling to survive, Katelyn Kutscher. Her mother, Brittany Kutscher says, “I just thought that it was amazing, that a person would do that for somebody they don’t even know.”
The Kutschers had the opportunity to thank him in person after the surgery. “He’s got a really, really, really good heart,” Kutscher says, “and he’s family now.”
The transplant was done at Cleveland Clinic using a minimally invasive technique. Dr. Koji Hashimoto, Director of Living Donor Liver Transplantation, hopes medical advances will encourage more people to consider donating. “You can increase the safety of living donors,” he says. “I think that is very, very important for a healthy person who is thinking about organ donation.”
Joe is now one of fewer than 50 people in the U.S. who have given twice as a living donor. “I have connections to people that I couldn’t have any other way,” he says, “I just feel like I got to be a part of something so good.”
Nearly 114,000 people in the United States are currently in need of a life-saving organ transplant.