Robert Leibowitz went way beyond wearing his heart on his sleeve over the summer.
In August he wore a T-shirt to Disney World emblazoned with a plea for the kidney he desperately needed.
The back of the shirt read: “In need of a kidney. O positive. Call 917-597-2651.”
Rocio Sandoval from Montana saw him there and asked if she could take a picture of him. She posted the photo on Facebook, where it was shared more than 90,000 times, according to ABC News.
One of Richie Sully’s friends saw the post and told him about it. Now, after weeks of testing, the Indiana man has been declared a donor match. The transplant is scheduled for Jan. 18 in New York.
It’s a small world after all.
“I think that I am still in shock, just the fact that it is real,” Leibowitz, who lives in New Jersey, told WFTV in Orlando this week.
He said he has had kidney problems since he was 12 years old and wants to get healthy for his five children. Though he has been on various transplant lists he hadn’t been able to find a match for several years.
It was his teenage daughter’s idea to wear the unconventional T-shirt to Disney World.
“I am a single dad. I love them more than anything in the world and they are my rocket fuel. That's what keeps me going,” Leibowitz said.
His 17-year-old son, Max, grateful that his dad will now get to see him graduate from high school, told People “it was insane” how quickly Sandoval’s photo on Facebook blew up.
“When we were boarding the plane, it was at, like, 40,000 (shares),” he told People. “That’s when the calls started coming in.”
Sandoval was stunned, too.
“I just wanted to do something nice for somebody,” she told WFTV. “Honestly, I was hoping it would get shared 100 times in one day, because I only have like, 260 friends on Facebook.”
Strangers from across the country called. You can have one of my kidneys, they told this man they’d never met.
“When that picture went up and he started getting call after call after call, we were in shock. We couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say,” Max said.
Five people were tested. The Leibowitz family learned last week that Sully was a match.
“As a father, I could relate to having kids, and the last thing I would want my kids to worry about every night when they go to bed is how much more time they have with me,” Sully told WFTV. The two men have already met.
Max posted a thank you on his Facebook page. “There are some really amazing people in this world,” he wrote.
“After years on dialysis, my dad has finally gotten a match for a kidney donation. Thank you Roco for the amazing post. Without you this would’ve never been possible. You played a big part in saving someone’s life and keeping a family together and I can never ever thank you enough for this.
“Thank you so much Richie, for being the amazing person you are to donate a kidney to a person you don’t even know, just out of the kindness of your heart. I love you guys and thank you so much for letting me keep my father.”
Max told People that after the transplant everyone wants to visit Disney world together.
“I am over the moon,” Sandoval told WFTV. “This is like my Christmas miracle.”