In 2015, Kelly Sowatsky was diagnosed with a dangerous, progressive kidney infection. Although she recovered from the infection, Kelly, 31, found herself in dire need of a transplant after she was left with just 7% of normal kidney function.
Years passed by while Kelly sat on the waitlist, deteriorating, awaiting a miracle.
This year, however, Kelly went out on a limb to seek a donor in a bit of an unlikely place: a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.
Penguins fan: Seeking hero. pic.twitter.com/jAeA81Wny7
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 31, 2018
While enjoying herself at the game, Kelly held a sign which read, “Calling all hockey fans! I need a kidney! Kidney! Kidney! Gratefully yours, Kelly,” with a phone number attached. The other side read, “Hey (Jake) Guentzel, I’d love a hockey stick but what I need is a kidney.”
“I thought this was my last chance to get the attention of somebody in a really big way,” she shared in a recent interview on Good Morning America.
In fact, Kelly did get people’s attention in a big way, especially after the Penguins’ team noticed her sign and posted a photo of it in a tweet which has since gone viral.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.
Kelly’s phone began to blow up with calls, emails, and texts from prospective donors.
“I said what the heck, that’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened,” Sowatsky told NHL.com. “From that point on, my phone just never stopped ringing… I was speechless.”
“We had never seen a sign like that at a game. I thought, ‘we have to help if we can,’” said Andi Perelman, the team’s director of new media, of the decision to send a photographer over to Kelly. “I can tell you this, we never imagined we’d help Kelly find a donor through that tweet.”
Exposure alone is not where Kelly’s story ends, thankfully, but it was the miracle she needed to be placed in touch with another Penguins fan, Jeff Lynd.
“I saw desperation, I saw courage and I saw she needed help. I knew that my blood type matched. I had this feeling it was something I just had to do,” Lynd said.
Just two weeks ago, Kelly underwent her transplant at Pittsburgh’s Montefiore Hospital, and, according to her doctors she is recovering perfectly and has a very bright prognosis!
“He literally saved my life,” Kelly shared with NHL.com. “If you trickle it down, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the reason my life is being saved, too.”
“There are no words,” said Jackie Sowatsky, Kelly’s mother. “It’s just mindboggling for me as a parent, as her mom, her caregiver that a simple sign did so much for Kelly. And that the Pittsburgh Penguins actually caught the sign and made the information available.”
“For her to get a donor off of that sign, I get choked up every time I think about it,” she added. “It’s a miracle.”