From Russia with Love: Kidney Donation Saves Apple Valley Man

February 05, 2018 10:41 PM

At a memorial service inside a Russian orthodox church Jan. 4 in Pittsburgh, a 35-year-old widow from Siberia mourned the death her husband.

Anton Kamaev, a Russian tourist, had been the victim of a random shooting days before. His wife Olga speaks not a word of English, and until that week, had never left Russia.


She was overwhelmed with grief. Anton Kamaev was riding in a car in Pittsburgh when a bullet came through the window and struck him in the head. After days in the hospital, doctors determined Anton Kamaev was brain-dead.

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"He was trying to get up from bed. First 24 hours, they thought he has a chance," said friend Vladimir Shlyaktin. "But after bullet exploded on his brain and cut the main artery and it kept bleeding, he become brain-dead in four days."

The question became: would his family be willing to donate his organs?

Hours after Kamaev's death, at a home in Apple Valley, the phone rang. It was 8 p.m. Thirty-five-year-old John Bond – an eight-year veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard – got the call he'd been waiting a year-and-a-half for.  

A kidney was waiting for him.  

But in order to get it, he and his wife Erin needed to get on a plane right away, and get to the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Just 16 hours after getting the call, John Bond underwent surgery to get his new kidney. The surgery was a success.  

When he awakened, John learns the donor was a Russian tourist who had been murdered. Through Google, he started to put the pieces together.  

He learned that just like him, his donor served in the army, was 35, and was the father of three children nearly the same age as his own. 

Days after the surgery, John bond got another gift: a chance to meet the wife of the man who saved his life, a chance not guaranteed to organ recipients.  

As he and Erin waited in a Pittsburgh Hotel last month, John Bond admitted he was nervous. At the same time, Olga Kamaev made her way down the hallway to meet the new caretaker of her husband's kidney.

RELATED: Carew, Family of NFL Player Who Donated Heart, Kidney Speak Out

When she walked into the room, she was greeted by John and his wife. They embraced, and John introduced Olga to Erin. They also hugged each other, two women locked together, whose lives are moving in opposite directions. Olga had lost a husband, and Erin gained the survival of one through donation.   

"Thank you," Erin said, as the tears streamed down her face. "I pray for you and your children. Thank you for choosing to donate."

Olga replied through a translator.

"She wishes you good luck," the translator relayed. "She's very happy. And (Anton is) very happy for helping you."

It was an unlikely connection through a terrible and random tragedy, but one that brought two families from opposite sides of the world together in the spirit of love.


Bill Lunn

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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