For two Vietnam veterans from Queens, N.Y., this upcoming Memorial Day is even more meaningful than years past. Not only do William Kelly and James Donahue share a friendship that has lasted for more than 20 years — the two men are now bound by a true gift of life.
Donahue, 55, was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. The retired U.S. Marine sergeant had been on dialysis for about two years before he was introduced to doctors at North shore University Hospital on Long Island.
"I got to know Mr. Donahue when he came to be evaluated for a kidney transplant several months ago," said Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, surgical director of the transplantation program at North shore University Hospital.
“We started to evaluate him for a transplant and then he spoke with his friend Bill Kelly,” Molmenti said.
Kelly, 61, who is also a retired Marine sergeant, was immediately tested to see if he was a match, and as luck would have it, he was.
“It was really admirable to see these two men who had defied fear in battle and situations of severe adversity to come together,” Molmenti told FOXNews.com. “Now they’re fighting the biggest fight of their whole lives and they're helping each other with this precious gift.”
Just before the start of spring, Molmenti and his colleagues performed the delicate transplant surgery.
“What most people don’t understand is that the Marine Corps is a true brotherhood,” said Donahue in a news release. You’re brought up your entire life to give a life for another Marine. What my friend Bill did for me just takes the spirit of brotherhood to another level.”
Doctors and hospital staff at North Shore University Hospital honored the two veterans at a news conference Thursday morning.
As for what their future holds – Molmenti said the outlook for both of them looks outstanding.
“The surgery was a great success,” he said. “They both have many healthy years to live.”
Since opening last year, North Shore’s Transplantation Center has performed eight surgeries – averaging one per month.
“This kind of generosity not only serves to reaffirm the definition of true friendship, but it also emphasizes the vital importance of organ tissue and donation,” Molmenti added.