Sandy Bilsky got his kidney and it works ‘perfectly,’ thanks to lifesaving donor

Reporter: Sydney Persing
Published: Updated:
Lori Klein is a kidney donor for Sandy Bilsky, an Englewood man who was in a desperate search for the organ. (CREDIT: WINK News)

We first introduced you to 79-year-old Sandy Bilsky in January 2021. Sandy needed a new kidney, and no one in his family was a match.

So, he humbled himself and allowed Reporter Erika Jackson to follow his journey to find a stranger willing to donate a kidney to save his life.

As many as 40 selfless WINK News viewers stepped up but doctors, unfortunately, eliminated them all as matches.

Before leaving for a new job in North Carolina, Erika covered Sandy’s story one more time, and a woman named Lori Klein saw it.

A former WINK News reporter, Erika Jackson, helped Sandy Bilsky find a kidney through her reporting.

She proved to be Sandy’s perfect donor, and on March 18, 2022, Lori gave Sandy her kidney.

Now, Sandy has invited you along again for his post-transplant reunion with Lori.

Tampa General scheduled their joint surgeries for St. Patrick’s Day – how’s that for turning your luck around?

“I’ll start playing the lottery,” Sandy exclaimed. “But you know, I don’t have to play the lottery because, thanks to Lori, I’ve won the lottery.”

All that was left was for sandy to “cash in.” Not all kidney transplants take.

So for their St. Patty’s Day surgeries, Lori donned green pajamas.

Sandy’s wife Anne came equipped with a sparkly bowtie and shamrock scarf.

Lori’s husband Chris, though, missed the memo, saying, “I felt a little underdressed because I was dressed in regular clothes that day and totally forgot that it was St. Patrick’s Day.”

It turned out Sandy and Lori’s luck did not run out.

Lori’s kidney turned pink, produced urine, and worked perfectly when doctors attached it to Sandy.

Sandy called it unusual. “Sometimes it takes a week or two weeks if it’s going to function … The doctors will say, what a miracle. Lori’s kidney was, what a fantastic match.”

Sandy was more than happy to be his match. “For everything to come together, all the testing, how well we matched. That’s definitely God’s work.”

In the waiting room, Chris got word of God’s work from Lori’s surgeon. And Anne got word from Sandys.

Anne said she couldn’t stop crying, “And at that point, Chris came over and said, well, I’m not a hugger, but I think you need a hug.”

“We’re bonded forever at this point now,” Chris said. “They’re family, and it’s great to have ’em.”

That family also includes Yogi, Sandy, and Anne’s dog.

Lori and Chris traveled back to Englewood to bring Yogi to Tampa, where Anne and Sandy will recover for the next month.

Lori had her final check-up at Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday.

Her surgeon, Dr. Chloe Wang, told us Sandy checked in on her – a lot.

“How is Lori? I wish I could take away her pain. And I just tried to reassure him that she’s doing very well and that she was going to go home,” Dr. Wang explained.

Dr. Wang also told us she hopes to see more miracles like Sandy and Lori’s in her operation room because without a living donor, “The average wait times are about four and a half to five years. So that’s a long time, especially if you’re already in your late 60s 70s.”

This is why Dr. Wang, Lori, Chris, Sandy, and Anne wanted to share this story. Because they want all of you at home watching or reading this online to keep an open mind and heart – just like Lori.

If someday you come across someone who needs a kidney. “Just please, as this airs. Everyone really, go into your heart and see if this is a possibility,” Anne pleaded.

And with the full support of her husband, Chris added, “If your spouse is really wanting to do that, I mean, it’s an amazing gift, and be supportive, be there for them.”

“Lori has given me life,” a joyous Sandy explained. “A life extension I wouldn’t have had.”

Lori said it really hit her on Saturday, March 19, when they were being discharged, “we went up to see sandy for the first time, and he looked amazing. And like I did that, and I was actually proud of myself, and it felt good to be able to give that to him. And I’d do it all over again.

For more information on the living donor program at Tampa General click here.

For more information or to donate to the National Kidney Foundation click here.

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