He is a Royals fan, lifelong.
She roots for the San Francisco Giants, the team that crushed Kansas City’s soul when it won the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium.
Turns out, they’re a good match.
And on Wednesday, Giants fan Kelly van den Berghe will become forever Royal when her friend, 38-year-old Hutchinson, Kan., native Josh Harrold, gives her one of his kidneys.
They both live in California, he in Orange County, she in Santa Cruz. The operation will take place at Stanford Hospital.
Because Josh is the kind of guy who believes in and earns a living making grand gestures, he worked with the Royals and Giants to create a moment his friend would not forget — the day he told her she was getting a “Royal kidney,” as he calls it.
It happened last November at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
It was epic: He got a Giants fan to wear a Royals jersey.
(Now she thinks she jinxed the Giants, currently last place in the NL West.)
Harrold and others close to van den Berghe have known she has PKD — polycystic kidney disease. The chronic, genetic disease causes cysts to grow uncontrollably in the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure, according to the PKD Foundation, based in Kansas City.
Van den Berghe’s grandmother, mother and brother had PKD. Transplants. Dialysis. Her family has been down this road before.
But her personal nightmare has been lack of appetite, painful leg cramps, mood swings, holding water in her belly, trouble sleeping, unquenchable thirst, panic, anxiety, lower back pain and unrelenting tiredness that banishes her to bed for 18 hours at a time.
“I knew this was going to happen someday,” van den Berghe said. “I just enjoyed all the things I could do now that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do later.
“It was just a matter of time. And it’s my time.”
Her friends didn’t know how sick she’d become until last August when she got honest and blunt and told her Facebook family she needed a kidney.
“Asking someone for a kidney is not an easy thing to do,” van den Berghe said. “For example, I have a stepsister who would have been a really, really good match. But she has two small children and she just wasn’t ready for it. You can’t be angry at someone for not doing it.
“I just put it out there, once. And just through the chain of social media lots of people went and got tested.”
She had a big pool to fish in. She is a retired roller derby queen, a star in Santa Cruz where she skated as “Roxy Scarmichael” and her jersey hangs from the rafters.
And then there was the juggernaut family of “Survivor” fans. Her husband, Lex van den Berghe, competed on “Survivor: Africa” and “Survivor: All Stars.”
The transplant folks told her they’d never seen so many people sign up to be tested as a possible donor for one person, van den Berghe said.
People have also donated $24,000 to a GoFundMe campaign set up to pay what insurance won’t cover.
Harrold was shocked and alarmed to see his positive, upbeat friend get so real, so publicly, about her deteriorating health.
“I knew she had been in pain for quite some time, but I never knew the extent of it,” Harrold wrote in a blog post on Medium last November urging people to become organ donors.
“Kelly is one of those people that you can’t help but smile around. Her hair is the brightest pink you’ve ever seen, and her soul shines even brighter.”
He read her Facebook post around noon that day and thought about it for hours. He wondered whether he would be a match, even though he had no idea about her blood type, or his own for that matter.
He didn’t want to say anything to van den Berghe about getting tested until he talked with his wife, Erica, whose own body has fought her, too. Erica had surgery on a brain tumor four years ago and has more chemotherapy to complete.
“Erica has always been the bravest woman I know,” said Harrold. “But knowing how much she’s been through I wanted to talk through the possibility of donating a kidney.”
When Harrold got home that day, Erica had already read van den Berghe’s post and knew “without a doubt,” she said, that her husband should help their friend.
“He exudes class and kindness. He inspires me with his generous nature and spirit. He has my admiration. He is, in the most beautiful way, unselfish. He is exactly the person my heart told me he was,” Erica wrote in a Facebook post in November.
“I am incredibly proud and honored to not only call him my husband, but also a LIVING DONOR.”
Harrold went online and watched videos and read articles about kidney transplants, and nothing he saw gave him pause.
“To me it was fairly simple,” he said. “I don’t think I could ever live with myself if I just stood on the sidelines and did nothing.
“Ultimately I only need one kidney to live a full and happy life. There’s really no sense in me living with two kidneys when one of mine will give my friend the same full and happy life.”
From the get-go, van den Berghe hoped Harrold would be her match. Both felt they would be.
After he learned in October that he was, Harrold cooked up a big, bold way to tell her. Big and bold is kind of his thing.
After Harrold graduated from Pepperdine University, Yoo-hoo hired him and a buddy as national spokespeople to travel the country and promote the chocolatey drink.
One summer they drove around in a garbage truck painted yellow with chocolate-colored flames, Harrold’s face painted on the driver’s door. They preached the “chocolately goodness” of Yoo-hoo at concerts, skateboarding meets, anywhere they could find young dudes ages 14 to 24 hanging out.
They put Yoo-hoo into the hands of celebrities, too — pro surfers, BMX riders. Sometimes they made it onto a movie set.
Harrold happened to read in Lex van den Berghe’s “Survivor” biography that he loved Yoo-hoo. So he delivered a palette of the drink to the van den Berghe home and all that chocolately goodness led to a 15-year friendship.
Harrold still works in marketing as director of operations for a company called FoxTales, where he creates “immersive visual experiences” for fans at big public events. He does a lot of work with Disney, Nike, Facebook and other high-profile companies.
After he learned he was her match, he lied to his friend and told her he wouldn’t know for sure for another six weeks. That gave him time to plan a surprise.
“I wanted to make it memorable,” he said. “This is saving her life, so she should have a great story to tell.
“She bleeds Giants ... and she’s always posting about the Giants. I thought if I could get them to allow me to tell her at the stadium ...”
He called friends hoping to find someone who knew someone with both teams. The Giants offered him the use of the stadium. The Royals, also happy to help, sent customized jerseys for both couples.
The back of Harrold’s says “Royal Kidney 1.”
Van den Berghe’s says “Royal Kidney 2.”
They got van den Berghe to the stadium using the ruse that she and her husband had scored a private ballpark tour.
She was in a wheelchair recovering from a foot injury. When they wheeled her out to home plate, there, on the Jumbotron, she saw this message:
“Kelly, I know you are a Giants fan ... but you’re about to have a Royals kidney!”
As she was trying to figure out why the Royals were mentioned on the Giants’ scoreboard she saw Harrold out of the corner of her eye, and that’s when it hit her.
She thought: “Oh my gosh, you’re really going to do this! It really is going to be you.”
Like a movie moment she jumped out of the wheelchair and ran toward Harrold on her crutches.
What was this? He had a Royals jersey? For her?
So the woman who loves Buster Posey and Hunter Pence and Will Clark slipped into Royal blue.
So now, after months of preparation including a no-pizza, no-Yoo-hoo diet for Harrold — “they told me in a nice way I was too fat,” he said, laughing — the day is here.
Harrold and van den Berghe are scheduled to check into the Stanford hospital Tuesday. The transplant will happen on Wednesday.
They both have secret gifts ready for each other. (They might have baseball themes. Shhhhh.) Both van den Berghes posted affectionate messages to Harrold on Facebook.
Harrold’s Facebook post has a simple message: “Please consider being an organ donor.”
And, he’s found a barbecue joint near the hospital for a post-surgery celebration, “being a loyal Kansas boy,” he said.
Both are calm, yet confess to a few jitters.
“I get pretty anxious about things, and I don’t feel that way at all,” said van den Berghe. “I feel very, very lucky and more lucky because it’s Josh. I love that dude!
“Besides his love for the Royals.”