Robert Leibowitz, a 60-year-old single father of five from New Jersey, was suffering from kidney failure, spending 12 hours a week on dialysis to prolong his life during a 7-year-long wait to receive a kidney, NBC News reports. But after a photo of Leibowitz in Disney World went viral, a stranger took him off the list by offering him the organ– and it's all thanks to a T-shirt.
Leibowitz's organ suffered a severe infection at age 12, and he developed chronic kidney disease thereafter. In November 2015, when it became clear he'd need a transplant, he took to Facebook to seek a donor who matched his blood type.
"I was desperate, like, what do I got to do that I can get a normal life back together?" he said in an interview with NBC News.
By summer 2017, Leibowitz decided to get creative: When he and his children went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to celebrate his 60th birthday, he'd wear a T-shirt that read, "In Need Of Kidney / O Positive / Call 917-597-2651", which his daughter had made him, according to Central Florida's WFTV. "I figured that's the best place to do it in a week, just get as much exposure as I can," he said in an interview with the station at the end of August.
Rocio Sandoval, a mother from Montana, was visiting the theme park in August when she saw Leibowitz wearing his shirt while pushing his son in a wheelchair. She assumed Leibowitz was looking for donors to save his son and was inspired to take a photo. She shared it on Facebook on Sunday, August 27, and the post went viral overnight. It's since received more than 90,000 shares and 14,000 likes.
By the first week of September, Leibowitz told Inside Edition he'd received about 300 texts, 100 Facebook messages, and 100 calls in response from people who'd seen his shirt. One respondent was Richie Sully, 39, a father of two from Indiana."If I can give this guy 20 more years with his kids, who wouldn't do that as a parent or as a person?" he told NBC News of his decision to offer up his organ to a stranger.
On Wednesday, January 18, Sully and Leibowitz has their surgeries at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. Sully was back on his feet by Saturday, when he joined the Women's March.
Although Leibowitz spent the weekend in the hospital, he told People he's feeling great after the organ transplant. He hopes to return to the Magic Kingdom with his family, including its new members: the Sandovals and the Sullys.
Get all the health and fitness news directly in your feed. Follow Facebook.com/CosmoBod.